User Tools

Site Tools


« Dictionary Index « Definitions under R


In the year 1800, the House of Commons voted an Address to His Majesty King George III. on the state of the Public Records of this kingdom, and the necessity of providing for the better arrangement, preservation, and more convenient use of the same; and humbly represented that the Public Records of the kingdom are in many offices unarranged, undescribed, aad unascertained; that many of them are exposed to erasure, alteration, and embezzlement, and are lodged in buildings incommodious and insecure, and that it would be beneficial to the public service that the records and papers contained in many of the principal offices and repositories should be methodized, and that certain of the more ancient and valuable amongst them should be printed; and humbly besought His Majesty, that He would be graciously pleased to give such directions thereupon, as He in His wisdom should think fit.

The first commission, bearing date the 19th of July 1800, states, “that We, considering the premises, and earnestly desiring more effectually to provide for the better arrangement, preservation, and more convenient use of the said records and papers, and reposing great trust and confidence in your fidelity, discretion, and integrity; —

“Have authorized and appointed, and by these presents do authorize and appoint you the said William Henry Cavendish Duke of Portland, William Windham Baron Grenville, Henry Dundas, Henry Addington, William Pitt, Sir Richard Pepper Arden, Frederick Campbell (commonly called Lord Frederick Campbell), Sylvester Douglas, Sir John Mitford, Sir William Grant, Robert Dundas, and Charles Abbot, and any three or more of you, to make a diligent and particular inquiry into the several matters which our faithful Commons have, in the above-mentioned report of their proceedings, represented as fitting to be provided for by our royal authority.”

“And to the end that Our royal will and pleasure in the premises may be executed with the greater regularity and expedition, We farther by these presents will and command, and do hereby give full power and authority to you or any three or more of you, to nominate and appoint from time to time such person of ability, care, and diligence, as ye shall think fit, to be and act as your Clerk or Secretary, for the purpose of aiding you in the execution of these presents; and also to nominate and appoint in like manner such several persons of ability, care, and diligence, as ye may think fit, to be Sub-Commissioners, to be employed under your direction and controul in the premises; and more especially to methodize, regulate, and digest the records, rolls, instruments, books, and papers, in any of Our public offices and repositories; and to cause such of the said records, rolls, instruments, books, and papers as are decayed and in danger of being destroyed, to be bound and secured; and to make exact calendars and indexes thereof; and to superintend the printing of such calendars and indexes, and original records and papers as ye shall cause to be printed.”

The Commissioners have in consequence published several volumes of the Records, which contain documents of the highest importance to the owner of landed property, to the family historian, and to the topographical writer, as well as assist in the elucidation of the manners and customs of the times to which they belong; while to the general historian they are invaluable, as opening new sources of the most valuable and authentic information, which previously had been virtually closed against his researches.

The portions of the Records already published have been printed literally from the originals, with all their abbreviations and peculiarities preserved. This renders them difficult to be read by the inexperienced in ancient manuscripts; and since county historians and other topographical writers make frequent extracts from these ancient records, to establish facts concerning persons, places, and property, I have thought it useful to give a detailed article on this subject, which may be equally useful in the library as in the printing-office.

The Commissioners have also published several volumes of Calendars and Indexes to many classes of Records.

To enter into a history, however brief, of the various public Records, would be foreign to the objects of the present work: for such information the reader is referred to publications that treat especially upon the subject. It is sufficient for the purpose to state, that each of the King's Courts of judicature registers its acts and proceedings upon rolls of parchment, which are called the Records of the court to which they belong; for instance, the Chancery Rolls, which contain the registration of all matters which pass under the great seal of England, are divided into classes; particular rolls being appropriated to the entry of particular matters. Thus, the Norman Rolls contain entries chiefly relating to Norman affairs; the Scotch Rolls comprehend those which regard Scotland generally; the Parliament Rolls embrace matters touching the Parliament; the Fine Rolls, entries respecting fines paid to the king for grants of liberties and privileges. The Close Rolls preserve copies of letters directed to individuals for their sole guidance and inspection, which, being private, are for this reason folded up, and closed with a seal; while the Patent Rolls, on the contrary, contain copies of letters which, though bearing a seal on their lower margin as a mark of authenticity, are not closed, but remain patent or open, to be shown to all men: these convey directions or commands of general obligation, or are given to individuals for their particular protection, profit, or personal advantage. A few only of the Chancery Records have been here enumerated; but sufficient has been stated to show the reader that each species of roll has its distinguishing characteristic.

A Chancery roll is composed of a number of skins of parchment so connected that the top of the second is attached to the bottom of the first, the top of the third to the bottom of the second, and so on; the whole being rolled up in the manner of a piece of cloth in a draper's shop, or of carpet in the warehouse of the manufacturer.

The reader will, from this description, readily understand that the word “roll” (rotulus, à rotare, to turn round) is but a synonym of the word “volume” (volumen, à volvere, to roll), and that, from the longitudinal connexion of its component skins, a reference made from any entry upon it, to a preceding or succeeding one, will be literally and properly expressed by the words vide supra and vide infra. He will likewise clearly comprehend that not only the interior, or intus, of the roll, upon which the characteristic entries have been made, will necessarily be kept clean and free from atmospheric influence, but also the greater part of the exterior, which is denominated the dors. This circumstance afforded the scribes an opportunity, which they readily embraced, of using the dors for entries and memoranda that were frequently very different in their character from those contained on the intus of the roll.

The Rolls of the courts of King's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer, contain the proceedings of those Courts; and they differ from those of the Chancery, not only in the nature of their contents, but also in the form in which they are made up. A roll of these courts consists of an indefinite number of skins sewn or attached together with a strong ligature of parchment at the top, and the subject is written both on the intus and dors, precisely in the same way as a book or letter is written; after the intus is filled, the subject is continued on the dors. In using this kind of roll, each skin, when perused, is turned back over the head of the rest, and brought down immediately after that which just before had been the last of the series; until, the whole having been thus in their order revolved, the first skin is again brought into its original position. The entire mass, being unprotected by pasteboard or other unyielding covers, is perfectly flexible, and, having been rolled up in the manner of a quire of paper, which it is desired to reduce to its smallest compass, is confined in its position by a piece of tape or other adequate ligature.

For every regnal year of a King's reign there is one or more of each class of rolls appropriated; according to the quantity of business done, so is the number of each class of rolls: for instance, the Patent Rolls of the 1st of Edward the Fourth, extending to six rolls or parts, as they are called, contain the enrolment of all the Letters Patent made during that year; the Charter Rolls of the same year, all the Charters granted in that year; as the Close Rolls do all the Letters Close issued in that year.

In quoting an entry from a roll, it is usual for writers to state first the name of the roll on which it is to be found: as, Rot. Pat. (Rotulus Patentium). Rot. Claus. (Rotulus Clausarum), the word “Litterarum” being understood in the two preceding cases; Rot. Fin. (Rotulus Finium), &c. Then follows the year of the king's reign. Should the roll be divided into parts, the part also is specified; as, p. 1. or pars 1., p. 2. or pars 2. The next circumstance noticed is the particular skin or membrane on which the entry occurs; as, m. 23. If the entries on the skin have numbers attached to them, the number also (n. 1., &c.) is cited: and if the entry is made on the back or dors of the roll, that circumstance is expressed by adding d, or in dorso (i.e. “on the back”) to the quotation; for, should this be omitted, the entry will very naturally be sought for upon the intus of the roll. Citing, then, an entry, from the Patent Rolls for instance, we will suppose the quotation to run in the following form, “Rot. Pat. 13 Edw. III. p. 2. m. 23.;” which would be thus rendered in English: “On the twenty-third skin of the second part of the Patent Roll of the thirteenth year of Edward the Third.”

Before quitting this part of the subject, it may not be unimportant to state that, on examining a roll, it is not an unfrequent circumstance to meet with entries which are cancelled, or crossed out with the pen; but, to prevent suspicion that this has been unfairly done, the reason for the cancellation is generally added at the side: as, “Quia supra,” — “Because it has already been entered above;” “Quia alias inferius,” — “Because it has been re-entered in other words below;” “Quia in Rot. Fin.” — “Because it is entered on the Fine Roll” (to which roll it more properly belongs); &c. This kind of cancellation, which was performed, as of course, by the person who discovered the error, must not be confounded with a cancellation by judgment; which latter was a function of the Lord Chancellor, who, when Letters Patent or Charters were adjudged void, was the person who condemned or cancelled them.

The terms cancellation, erasure, expunging or expunction, obliteration, elision, and deletion, — words each employed to denote a different method adopted to prevent faulty passages or minor errors from standing as parts of a composition, — having been frequently used indiscriminately one for another, the reader may not be displeased to be here reminded of their original significations. To treat, then, of each in the order in which it has been named; —


denotes the drawing a pen several times obliquely across a passage, first from right to left, and then from left to right, in the manner of lattice-work. (The word is derived from cancella, a lattice.)


implies the removal of a faulty portion by the application of the knife. (From erado, I scrape out.)

Expunging or expunction

(both derivations from the same verb, expungo, I prick or dot out,) was a method by which the clerk neatly expressed that a word, or part of a word, was to be omitted; as “sententence.” Leaving out, then, the under-dotted, or expuncted letters, the amended word will be sentence.


is the slovenly method, still frequently employed, of completely covering the error with ink, so that not a letter thereof can be traced. (From oblitero, I blot out.)


is the act of striking out the erroneous matter by a simple dash of the pen. (From elido, I strike or dash out.)


is the wiping away the ink while it is yet wet, and then continuing the writing over the space which had been in the first instance occupied by the error. (From deleo, I wipe out.)

After this short, but, it is hoped, satisfactory explanation of the nature and circumstances of a roll, the reader will proceed to an analysis of the contracted language in which records have been composed.

The marks placed above letters to denote omissions are either a right line ( ¯ ), or a circumflex (~). The former of these marks above a vowel denotes that an immediately subsequent m or n has been omitted; as, vēdāt for vendant, bonū for bonum, terrā for terram: the latter mark, when seen above or through a letter, whether in the middle or at the end of a word, signifies that some letter other than m or n is to be supplied, as ṽl for vel, ip̃e for ipse; or that more letters than one are required, as aĩa for anima, aliter contracted for aliter, Wintoñ for Wintonia, nobis contracted for nobis, mandatum contracted for mandatum. The circumflex is sometimes continued over or through two letters; as, occasione contracted for occasione, nullum contracted for nullum. Some persons, however, employ the straight line through a consonant, instead of the circumflex, to denote the omission of one or more letters; as, vobis contracted for vobis, quod contracted for quod.

A small letter placed above the line (hence called a superior letter) indicates an omission of which such letter forms a part; as, donc for donec, pius for prius, qos for quos, sa for supra, ti for tibi.

The four following double characters occur in Sir Francis Palgrave's “Parliamentary Writs,” in each of which the superior immediately surmounts its subjacent letter, having been cast with it by the founder as if they had been but one character: — mihi contracted, for mihi; nisi contracted, for nisi; qui contracted, used for qui and quia; tibi contracted, for tibi.

The apostrophe is sometimes used as a mark of abbreviation, generally after an initial capital, but sometimes also in other parts of the word.

A point or dot, placed after a letter, is frequently used as a sign of final abbreviation; as, ass. no. diss, for assisae novae disseisinae, di. et contracted; fi. s. for dilecto et fideli suo, e. for est, plurib. for pluribus.

The signification of the following characters is fixed and positive: —

  • c cursive This symbol, sometimes called the c cursive, or c reversed, denotes com or con: as, committo contracted, committo; contra contracted, contra. Before the adoption of the present elegant type, this character was represented in printing by an old-fashioned figure of 9; as, commune contracted, commune. In the “Parliamentary Writs,” a turned c supplies its place; as, competere contracted, competere.
  • es plural This represents the es plural and is possessive in the termination of Old English nouns: in later times it was much used for the is final of Latin genitives. In the extract from Richard of Devizes, immediately to be given, it has been uniformly thus employed.
  • æ contracted This character, which resembles the cedilla of the French (ç), is sometimes employed as the representative of the diphthong æ in particular records; as, terræ contracted, terræ.
  • est contracted (1) or est contracted (2) Each of these characters represents est, simple or in composition; as, simple, est contracted (1) est; in composition, interest contracted interest.
  • est contracted (3) or est contracted (4) These also denote est: they sometimes stand for ess; as, ee, esse; êet, esset.
  • &, 7, and et contracted are abbreviated forms of the conjunction et. They were not, however, used indiscriminately, as in the subsequent praxis, but are peculiar to MSS. of very different periods of time.
  • et coetera contracted et cætera.
  • & etiam.
  • ascending recurved flourish This ascending recurved flourish, which is sometimes cast separately by the founder, that it may be placed after a simple consonant, but which is most frequently cast with it, both forming together one compound character, denotes the omission of er or re: as, cerno contracted (1) or cerno contracted (2), cerno: gerens contracted (1) or gerens contracted (2), gerens: gregis contracted (1) or gregis contracted (2), gregis: camera contracted (1) or camera contracted (2), camera: remunero contracted (1) or remunero contracted (2), remunero: præter contracted (1) or præter contracted (2), præter (Note. — Per, which has its specific symbol, is never represented by this character): serviens contracted (1) or serviens contracted (2), serviens: terra contracted (1) or terra contracted (2), terra: tremens contracted (1) or tremens contracted (2), tremens: fuerit contracted (1) or fuerit contracted (2), fuerit: versus contracted (1) or versus contracted (2), versus: duxerit contracted (1) or duxerit contracted (2), duxerit; — xor contracted stands also for xor, as uxorem contracted (1) or uxorem contracted (2), uxorem. When er is omitted after one of the ascending letters b, d, or h, its absence is generally denoted by the circumflex line drawn across the upright stem of the letter: as taberna contracted, taberna; consideratum contracted, consideratum; hæres contracted, hæres.
  • De contracted (1) This character, when alone, represents De, when the word begins a sentence.
  • De contracted (2) The small d, when alone, likewise denotes de; and in accounts it represents one of the cases of denarius. It may also be used arbitrarily; and then, like all letters standing alone, its meaning must be discovered by an examination of the context.
  • manucaptor contracted A contracted form of manucaptor or manerium. It is an arbitrary sign, and may represent other words, the sense of which must be sought from the context.
  • per contracted (1) or per contracted (2) This is the specific representative of per: but it sometimes also denotes par and por; as,parte contracted, parte; tempore contracted, tempore.
  • pro contracted This character uniformly represents pro.
  • que contracted This, annexed to a word, denotes the postpositive conjunction que.
  • quod contracted (2) quod.
  • quia contracted (1) or quia contracted (2) quia.
  • Rex contracted Rex and its cases; also Regina and its cases.
  • rum of plural genitives contracted This character, which is found at the end only of a word, usually represents the rum of plural genitives: it is sometimes, however, used as a general termination; as, Alienoram contracted for Alienoram, eborum contracted for Eborum or Eboracum, Windesores contracted for Windesores.
  • ser contracted This character, which occurs mostly in Old French, represents, in composition, the syllable ser; as, servaunt contracted, servaunt: alone it means sire; with a superior r, ser contracted (2)r, seigneur.
  • th Saxon th Saxon: as, ther Saxon, ther; th Saxon (2)t, that.
  • th Saxon (3) Another form of the Saxon th.
  • us contracted This symbol is the representative of the final us, except, as an almost general rule, when terminating datives: as, Augusti contracted, Augusti; Deus contracted, Deus; mandamus contracted, mandamus; prius contracted, prius. It also denotes os or ost in the preposition post; thus, post contracted or post contracted (2).
  • Ʒ The usual function of this abbreviation is that of denoting the us final of datives; as, tribƷ, tribus; omnibƷ, omnibus: but it likewise represents the final et; as, debƷ, debet; habƷ, habet: and sometimes stands for a general termination; as, quilƷ, quilibet; scilƷ, scilicet. For the last purpose it is still in ordinary use, but under a disguised form; as viz. for viƷ.
  • Xp̃c Latin names derived from the Greek are usually printed with the Roman letters which most nearly resemble in their form those of the original language: thus X stands for the Greek chi (X), p for the rho (P), and c for the sigma (S). Xp̃c consequently represent the word “Christus”: by substituting the required letter for the c, we shall have the various cases of the noun; as, Xp̃i, Xp̃o; Christi, Christo, &c.
  • cross contracted The cross is met with in some records and charters, and in such cases generally precedes the subscription of his name by a bishop. It is not used as a word, but apparently as a compendious profession of faith, or else as a silent invocation of the Divine aid. This was also the sign by which persons who could not write were accustomed to attest instruments, their names being added by those who could. An imitation of this mark is still in use among uneducated persons; as,
    “John his mark Thomas,”
  • The following points are met with in ancient MSS.
    Ancient Points the comma; sometimes also used as a period, and the ancient colon, or semicolon: used frequently as a full stop.
  • Domesday-book new paragraph This character denotes the commencement of a paragraph in Domesday-book.
  • sections and of independent lines (1) and sections and of independent lines (2) These marks are, in some records, placed at the commencement of sections and of independent lines.

The necessity of printing records in the most literal manner having been for a long time generally admitted, Editors have been constrained to invent characters by which to denote erasures, cancellations, interlineations, and other peculiarities which occur upon the face of them. These characters, though strictly editorial, are nevertheless deserving of notice here.

  • Cancellations, using the term in a comprehensive sense, are denoted by Sir F. Palgrave, in his “Parliamentary Writs,” by placing an upright trefoil (trefle — the club of the French playing-cards) at the commencement of the elided passage, the conclusion of which he indicates by a reversed trefoil: thus, Cancellation trefoils.
  • Interlineations are expressed by their being included between brackets: [ ].
  • Words written upon erasures, or apparently added to the text after it had been originally written, are placed between inverted commas: ”“.
  • Sir Francis likewise employs critical marks, by which he directs attention to evident as well as apparent errors in the original, as also to the point at which an apparent deficiency exists.
  • Doubtful readings, and words which are apparently clerical errors, are preceded by the upright parallel, ||.
  • Readings which are evidently erroneous are stigmatized by the obelisk or dagger, † .
  • And apparent deficiencies are denoted by the insertion of an asterisk, *, at the point where the omission appears to have taken place.
  • private mark imitation and • These two characters occur also in the last-named work, the meaning of which is by no means clear. They appear to be imperfect imitations of private marks made by the writers of the documents.
  • Mr. Hardy, in his “Close Rolls,” has adopted a system somewhat different from that of Sir F. Palgrave.
  • All errors, whether of commission or omission, the first-named gentleman denotes by drawing a line under the wrong word, or under the interspace in which the omission should have been inserted; leaving the ascertainment of the kind of error to the discrimination of the reader.
  • Elisions of one or a few words are represented in his work by means of thin wire placed over the surface of these words, which are grooved by a file for the purpose of its reception, and which, when thus printed, have the appearance of having been dashed out with a pen. Cancellations of greater extent are indicated by including the cancelled matter between two thick perpendicular lines, curved at their extremities and formed like the printer's brace, but without its receding middle. These, for convenience, are here exhibited in the horizontal position cancellation braces
  • Words written on an erasure are printed between these marks `´.

To assist the reader in comprehending the foregoing explanations, and as an exercise to his ingenuity, an interesting tale, of sufficient length for the purpose, has been selected from the History of Richard the First. This historiette, which was written by the monarch's namesake, Richard of Devizes, and which abounds in very interesting particulars, was lately, for the first time, given to the public in a printed form by the “English Historical Society:” to their publication we are indebted for our text. The reader, having carefully studied the preceding symbols, may now proceed to an examination of the language of this story. This, which has been purposely contracted with every species of abbreviations common to the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries, he will proceed to extend into full words, verifying his performance, when completed, by comparing it with what immediately follows, which he will find to be the same narrative in an uncontracted form. Having acquired some degree of facility in extending the contracted forms, he may then advantageously reverse the process, and proceed to a reduction of words at length to a contracted state. A little practice will soon enable him to apply his newly acquired knowledge in the elucidation of whatever form of record or of ancient document may come before him. This acquirement he may find extremely useful, and he may possibly thence derive a certain degree of distinction; since this has to the present time been a branch of knowledge entirely confined to a small portion of the learned, and to the few typographical readers whose employments have more immediately required its cultivation. A translation is added, followed by a few explanatory notes.

In conformity with a practice which has hitherto much obtained in Record printing, c has been substituted for t in the terminations tio and tia: this usage, the propriety of which has been questioned, has been here followed, in order that the student's eye may be accustomed to its recurrence elsewhere. The diphthongs æ and œ have been also for the same reason represented by the simple e.

Story of a Boy killed by the Jews of Winchester

Story of a Boy killed by the Jews of Winchester with abbreviations
Story of a Boy… with abbreviations Enlarge

The preceding in words at length

Quia Wintonia non debuit debita sibi mercede privari pro servata, ut in capite libri praepositum est, pace Judaeis, Wintonienses Judaei civitatis suae (Judaico more) studentes honori, etsi factum forte defuerit, plurimis facti indiciis celebrem sibi famam de martyrizato ase in Wintonia puero confecerunt. Casus erat hujusmodi. Puerum quemdam Christianum, artis sutoriae sciolum, Judseus quidam in familiare familiae suae consciverat ministerium. Non ibi continuum residebat ad opus, nee magnum aliquid semel sinebatur explere, ne provisam sibi caedem probaret cohabitatio; et ut, pro modico labore melius ibi quam pro multo alibi remuneratus, domum dsmonis, donis ejus et dolis illectus, libentius frequentaret. P'uerat autem Francus genere, pupillus et orphanus, abjectae conditionis et paupertatis extremse. Has hujusmodi miserias in Francia male miseratus quidam Judaeus Francigena, crebris ei monitis persuasit ut Angliam peteret, terram lacte et raelle manantem; Anglos liberales praedicavit et dapsiles; ibi nullum, qui niteretur ad probitatem, pauperem moriturum. Puer promtulus, ut naturaliter Francorum est, ad velle quicquid volueris, assumpto secum comite quodam coaetaneo suo et compatriota, ad peregrine proficiscendum praecinctus est; nihil in manibus habens praster baculum, nihil in sytarchia praeter subulam.

Valedixit Judaeo suo; cui Judaeus, “Vade,” ait, “viriliter. Deus patrum meorum deducat te sicut desidero.” Et, impositis manibus super caput ejus, ac si esset hircus emissarius. post stridores quosdam gutturis et tacitas imprecationes, jam de praeda securus, adjecit, “Forti animo esto, obliviscere populum tuum et terram tuam, quia omnis terra forti patria est, ut piscibus aequor, ut voluori vacuo quicquid in orbe patet. Angliam ingressus si Londonias veneris, celeriter pertransibis; multum enim mihi displicet ilia polls. Omne hominum genus in Ulam coniluit ex omni natione qua sub ccelo est; omnis gens sua vitia et suos mores urbi intulit. Nemo in ea sine crimine vivit; non omnis in ea vious non abundat tristibus obscenis; eo ibi quisquis melior est, quo fuerit major in scelere. Nou ignoro quera instruo; habes supra tuam jetatem fervorem ingenii, frigiditatem memoriae, ex utrinque contrariis temperantiam rationis. Nihil de te mihi metuo, nisi cum male viventibus commoreris; ex convictu enim mores formantur. Esto, esto ! Londonias venies. Ecce ! prsedico tibi, quicquid in singulis, quicquid in universis partibus mundi mall vel malitias est, in una ilia civitate reperies. Lenonum choros non adeas, ganearum gregibus non immiscearis; vita thalum et tesseram, theatrum et tabernam. Plures ibi quam in tota Gallia thrasones oiFcndes, gnathonum autem infinitus est numerus. Histriones, scurras, glabriones, garamantes, palpones, pusiones, moUes, maseulatii, ambubaiae, pharmacopolae, crissariae, phitonissae, vultuariae, noctivagse, magi, mimi, mendici, balathrones, hoc genus omne totas replevere domos.1) Ergo, si nolueris habitare cum turpibus, non habitabis Londoniis. Non loquor in literatos vel religiosos, sive Judaeos; quamvis et ex ipsa cohabitatione malorum, minus eos ibi quam alibi crediderira esse perfectos.

“Nee eo pergit oratio, ut in nullam te recipias civitatem, cum meo consilio nusquam tibi sit nisi in urbe manendum, refert tamen in qua. Si igitur circa Cantuarlam appuleris, iter habebis perdere; si vel per eam transieris. Tota est ilia perditorum collectio ad suum nescio quem nuper deificatum, qui fuerat Cantuariae archipresbyter, quod passim prae inopia panis et ocio per plateas moriuntur ad solem. Rovecestria et Cicestria viculi sunt, et cur civitales dici debeant prseter sedes flaminum nihil obtendunt. Oxonia vix suos clerioos, non dico satiat, sed sustentat. Exonia eodem farre reficit homines et jumenta. B^thonia, in imis vallium in crasso nimis aere et vapore sulphureo posita, imo deposita, est ad portas inferi. Sed nee in arctois sedem tibi legeris urbibus, Wigomia, Cestria, Herefordia, propter Walenses vitce prodigos. Eboracum Scottis abundat, foedis et iniidis hominibus vel homuncionibus. Eliensis pagus perpetuo putidus est pro circumfusis paludibus. In Dunelmo, Northwico, sive Lincolnia, perpaucos de potentibus, de tua conditione nullum penitus audies Romane loquentem. Apud Bristollum nemo est qui non sit vel fuerit saponarius, et omnis Francus saponarios amat ut stercorarios. Post urbes, orane forum, villa, vel oppidum, incolas habet rudes et rusticos. Omni insuper tempore pro talibus Cornubienses habeto, quales in Francia nosti nostros Flandrenses haberi. Ceterum regio ipsa generaliter in rare coeli et in pinguedine terras tota beatissima est; in singulis etiara locis aliqui boni sunt, set multo minus in omnibus quam in una Wintonia.

“Haec est in partibus illis Judaeorum Hierosolyma, in hac sola perpetua pace fruuntur, h^ec est schola bene vivere et valere volentium. Hic fiunt homines, hic satis est panis et vini pro nihilo. Sunt in ea tanta: monachi misericordise et mansuetudinis, clerus consilii et libertatis, cives civiUtatis et fidei, femina: pulchritudinis et pudicitiie, quod parum me retinet quin ego vadam illuc cum talibus Christianis fieri Christianus. Ad istam te dirigo civitatem, urbem urbium, matrem omnium, et omnibus meliorem. Unum est vitium et illud solum, cui de consuetudine nimis indulget.- Salva pace literatorum dixerim et Judieorum, Wentani mentiuntur, ut vigiles, sed in fabulis faciendis. Nusquam enim sub coelo de tam facili tot rumores falsi fabricantur, ut ibi; alias, per omnia sunt veraces. Multa haberem adhuc et de meis negotiis tibi dicere, sed ne forte non capias, vel obliviscaris, literulas has familiaris mei Judsei manibus inseres, credo quia et ab illo aliquando remuneraberis.” Scripta brevis erat Hebraica. Judaeus peroraverat; et puer, omnia interpretatus in bonum, pervenit Wintoniam.

Subula sibi sicut et sodali suo satisfecit ad victum, et male parta per literas Judaei saeva suavltas et blxsa benignitas ad solatium. Ubicumque diebus pauperculi operarentur ab invicem, vel comederent, singulis noctibus in uno unius vetulee veteri tugnrio in uno lectulo quiescebant. Dies succedunt diebus, menses mensibus; et hujusmodi pueri nostri, quern tam curiose hucusque diduximus, adesse per abesse festinant tempora. Crucis adoratas dies advenerat, et puer ipso die apud Judaeum suum operans, quocumque modo de medio factus, non comparuit. Erat quippe proxiroum Fascha, dies festus Judaeorum. Socius illius vespere non revertentis ad cubiculum miratus abscntiam, plurimis ipsa nocte terretur insomniis. Qussitum diebus aliquot per omnes urbis angulos cum non invenisset, convenit Judaeum simpliciter, si suum quoquam misisset nutritium; quern cum prxter solitum de tam benigno pridie vehementer sensisset acerbum, verborum et vultus varietate notata, incanduit illico, et, ut erat vocis acutae et mirabilis eloquentiae, statim prorupit in jurgia, magnis eum de sublatione socii sui clamoribus urgens. “Tu,” inquit, “fill sordidae meretricis, tu latro, tu traditor, tu diabole, tu crucifixisti socium meum. Hei mihi I modo quare non habeo vires hominis I Ego te manibus meis dilaniarem. “Audiuntur in platea clamores vociferantis in aede, concurrunt undique Judaei et Christiani. Puerulus instat, et jam pro turba constantior, interpellatis prssentibus, ccepit allegare pro socio. “O vos,” ait, “viri qui convenistis, videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus. Iste Judceus diabolus est, iste cor meum de ventre meo rapuit, iste unicum sodalem meum jugulavit, pr«sumo etiam quod mandueavit. Filius quidam diaboli, Judaeus, Franeigena, nee intelligo, nee experior, Judaeus ille dedit sodali meo literas mortis sua: ad hominem istum. Ad banc urbem venit inductus, imo seductus. Judeeo huic ssepe .servivit, et in domo ejus novissime visus est.” Non defuit ei testis ad aliqua, quantum et femina Christiana, quae, contra Canones, in eadem domo nutrierat Judaeulos. Constanter jurabat se vidisse puerum in penum Judaei descendere sine regressu. Judaeus inficiatur, res refertur ad judices. Deficiunt accusatores; puer quia infra aetatem erat, femina quia infamem eam fecerat Judseorum ministerium. Judaeus obtulit purgationem conscientiae propter infamiam. Judicibus aurea placuit. Dedit Phinees et placavit, et cessavit quassatio.


As it would have been wrong that Winchester should be deprived of her due reward for having preserved peace with the Jews, as has been stated at the beginning of this book2), the Winchester Jews, studious (after a Jewish fashion) of their city's honour, although clear evidence of the deed was perhaps wanting, yet from several indications of its commission, gained for themselves a notorious celebrity by the martyrdom of a lad in Winchester. The circumstance was as follows: A certain Jew had engaged a Christian boy, who was a little acquainted with shoemaking, in the domestic service of his family. He did not remain permanently at work in the house, nor was he allowed to perform any great matter at once, lest cohabitation with the family should show him the destruction prepared for him; as also, that, being better remunerated for a little labour there than for much elsewhere, he should, enticed by his presents and deceit, the more willingly resort to the demon's house. Now the boy was a native of France, a minor and an orphan; he was, too, of low condition and extreme poverty. A French Jew, hypocritically pitying this his state of wretchedness while in France, persuaded him by repeated exhortations to seek England, a land flowing with milk and honey: he extolled the English as liberal and munificent; adding, that no one who would struggle for an honest living in that country could die poor. The lad, rather ready, as is natural with the French, to conform his will to that of others, taking with him a companion of his own age and country, girt up his loins for a foreign journey; carrying nothing in his hand except a staff, nor anything in his scrip besides an awl.

He took leave of his friend the Jew, who thus addressed him. “Go thy way,” says he, “manfully. May the God of my fathers be thy leader, according to my desire.” And having laid his hands upon his head, as if he had been the scapegoat, being now certain of his prey, he added, after certain guttural croakings and silent imprecations, “Be of a stout heart: forget thy people and thy country, for every land is as his country to the brave, even as is the sea to fish, as to the bird whatever lies before it on the open globe. On landing in England, shouldst thou go to London, thou wilt pass through it quickly, for much doth that city displease me. Every kind of men from every nation under heaven flows into that place; into that town hath every people carried its vices and its habits. No one lives there untainted with crime; there is not a street within that place which abounds not with sad obscenity; a man is there accounted better in proportion as he has been a greater adept in iniquity. I am not ignorant of whom I instruct: thou hast a glow of genius beyond thy years, a coolness of reflection, and, as the result of these opposite qualities, a temperateness of the reasoning faculty. I have no fear for thee unless thou dwell with evil-livers, for from our associations are our morals formed. Amen! amen! thou wilt go to London. Lo! I tell thee beforehand, whatever there is of evil or of wickedness in particular parts of the world, whatever in all its parts together, in that one city wilt thou find. Go not among the multitude of the corrupters of youth; mix not with the crowds issuing from the stews; flee dice and chess, the playhouse and the pothouse. Thou wilt meet there more bullies than are in the whole of France, and yet the number of mean flatterers is infinite. Stage-players, bufffoons, bald-pated reprobates, men living like wild Indians, parasites, infamous boys, effeminate and scandalous men, lewd music-girls, quacks, wantons, fortune-tellers, harpies, night-walkers, conjurers, mimics, beggars, shabby scoundrels, — this is the sort of people with which each house is filled. If, then, thou wouldst not be a dweller with men of shame, thou wilt not abide in London. My observations are not directed against men of letters or the religious, nor against Jews; though, from their very cohabitation with the wicked, I should believe them to be farther from perfection there than anywhere else.

“Nor does my advice go the length of dissuading thee from betaking thyself to a city, since in my opinion thou shouldst tarry nowhere but in some large town; it is of consequence, however, in which. If then thou shouldst land near Canterbury, thou wilt be on the road to destruction; if even thou pass through it. All that collection of lost men is so devoted to the service of some lately deified person of their place (I know not whom)3), who was archbishop of Canterbury, that they are dying everywhere in the sun, for want of bread and through indolence, in the very streets. Rochester and Chichester are mere villages, and offer nothing for which they should be called cities except their being bishops' sees. Oxford scarcely, I do not say satiates, but keeps her clerks alive. Exeter feeds men and beasts with the same meal. In the depths of valleys, in an exceedingly dense atmosphere and amid sulphurous vapours, Bath is posited, yea deposited, at the gates of hell. But neither wilt thou select for thyself an abode in the northern cities, in Worcester, Chester, or in Hereford, on account of the Welsh, men prodigal of human life. York abounds with Scots, who are filthy and deceitful men, or something less than men. From its surrounding marshes, the Isle of Ely is one eternal stench. In Durham, Norwich, or in Lincoln thou wilt hear very few of the higher orders speaking Latin; of thine own condition, not a soul. At Bristol there is not a man who is not, or has not been, a soap-boiler: now a Frenchman loves soap-boilers as well as he does nightmen4) Out of the large towns, every market-town, vill, or petty town has rude and clownish inhabitants. 'Thou mayst, moreover, at all times consider the Cornishmen to be such as thou knowest our Flemings to be esteemed in France. In fine, the country generally is in the highest degree blessed with the dews of heaven and with richness of soil: there are, too, some good men in every place within it, but fewer by far in all together than in Winchester alone.

“That city is the Jerusalem of the Jews in those parts; within her precincts alone do they enjoy perpetual peace; she is the school of those who wish to live well and to thrive. There men are produced; there thou mayst have a sufficiency of bread and wine for nothing. In that place there are monks of. such mercy and meekness, a clergy so wise and tolerant, citizens of such probity and so regardful of their fellows' rights, women so beautiful and modest, that little withholds me from going thither, and, among such Christians, myself becoming a Christian. To that city do I direct thee, the city of cities, the mother of all and better than all. There is one vice, and only one, in which she is accustomed to over-indulge. Asking pardon of the men of letters and the Jews, I must say (that thou mayst be upon thy guard) that the Winchester people are addicted to lying, yet only in inventing idle tales; for in no place under heaven, as there, are so many false reports fabricated with so much facility; in all other matters they are perfectly veracious. I had yet much to tell thee of my own affairs; but lest thou shouldst not comprehend all, or shouldst forget, thou wilt place this small letter in the hands of a Jewish friend, as I feel confident that thou wilt one day be rewarded by him. “This was a brief note written in Hebrew. The Jew had finished his oration; and the lad, putting the best construction upon everything, arrived at Winchester.

His awl provided food enough for his companion and himself; and the cruel kindness and stuttering civility so evilly obtained him by the Jew's letter procured him comforts. Wherever these poor creatures might work separately in the day, or take their meals, they each night rested on a little bed in the ancient cottage of an aged woman. Day succeeds day, month month, and the last hours of this our youth, whom we have thus far so curiously traced, hasten, by their very escape, their arrival. The day of the Adoration of the Cross5) had arrived; and the boy, working upon that day at his master the Jew's, in whatever manner he was made away with, disappeared. Now the next day was the Passover, the great festival of the Jews. His companion, wondering at his absence, as he did not return in the evening to his bed, is terrified that night by many hideous dreams. Having for several days sought him in every corner of the city without finding him, he at once asked the Jew if he had sent the lad, who was his means of support, anywhere; whom when he perceived to become, contrary to his wont, from the particularly mild man of yesterday, outrageously bitter, — noticing this change in his language and bis countenance, he immediately took fire, and as he had a piercing voice, and was gifted with a wonderful flow of words, he instantly broke out into reproaches, with loud outcries charging him with making away with his friend. “Thou offspring of a filthy harlot!” he exclaims, “thou thief! thou traitor! thou devil! thou hast crucified my companion! Woe is me! why have I not yet the strength of a man! I could tear thee in pieces with my hands.” The cries of the boy vociferating within the house are heard in the public street; from all sides Jews and Christians hastily assemble. The boy presses; and, now become more confident from the presence of the crowd, he began, having gained their attention, to plead the cause of his companion. “O men,” he says, “who have here assembled, see if there be grief like my grief. This Jew is a devil; he hath torn my heart from within my breast; he hath murdered my only companion, I even think he hath devoured him. A son of the Evil One, a certain Jew, — whether he be French-born I neither understand nor know, — but that Jew gave to my friend a letter, which was the warrant for his death, directed to this man. Thus induced, — yea, seduced, — he came to this city. He was often engaged in the service of this Jew, and in his house was he last seen.” The boy was not without a witness to some portion of his tale; inasmuch as there was a Christian woman, who, contrary to the Canons, had nursed the Jewish children in the same house. She swore positively that she had seen the lad go down into the Jew's store-room, but never return. The Jew denies it; the matter is referred to the Judges. The accusers fail; the boy because he was under age, the woman because her ministry to the Jews had rendered her infamous. The Jew offered a purgation6) of his conscience with respect to the infamy. Gold was acceptable to the judges: Phinees gave it and appeased them, and the stir ceased.

Table of the principal Abbreviations used in Records

An, Am - Antecessoribus Enlarge
An, Am - Antecessoribus

Animalia - Communia Enlarge
Animalia - Communia

Contrario - Dicit Enlarge
Contrario - Dicit

Dicunt - Facere Enlarge
Dicunt - Facere

Factus - Henricus Enlarge
Factus - Henricus

Hominium - Juratores Enlarge
Hominium - Juratores

Jus - Modo Enlarge
Jus - Modo

Monemur - Omni Enlarge
Monemur - Omni

Omnis - Posito Enlarge
Omnis - Posito

Possessionem - Quare Enlarge
Possessionem - Quare

Querela - Sibi Enlarge
Querela - Sibi

Similiter - Temporibus Enlarge
Similiter - Temporibus

Totalis - Your Enlarge
Totalis - Your

Download the full table of abbreviations as PDF Download abbreviations as PDF

First PagePrevious PageNext PageLast Page

Some of these worthless characters are mentioned in the lines of Horace:
“Ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolae,
Mendici, mimi, balatrones.” — Sat. lib. i. 2.
Others are to be found in Juvenal.
The atrocious massacre above referred to, is related in the following impious and inhuman terms: — “On that same day of the coronation, about the solemn hour in which the Son was immolated to the Father, they began in the city of London to sacrifice the Jews to their father the devil; and so long was the duration of this famous mystery, that the holocaust could scarcely be completed on the second day. Other cities, and towns in the country emulated the faith of the Londoners, and with equal devotion dispatched their bloodsuckers in their blood to the infernal regions. Somewhat, but not to such an extent, was at that time enacted against those children of perdition everywhere throughout the kingdom: Winchester alone spared her vermin, — a people prudent and forecasting, and a city at all times respecting her citizens' rights.” —
“Eodem coronationis die, circa illam sollemnitatis horam qua Filius immolabatur Fatri, incoeptum est in civitate Londoniae immolare Judaeos patri suo diabolo; tantaque fuit hujus Celebris mora mysterii, ut vix altera die compleri potuerit holocaustum. AEmulatae sunt aliae civitates regipnis et urbes fidem Londoniensium, et pari devotione suos sanguisugas cum sanguine transmiserunt ad inferos. Aliquid, sed inaequaliter, ea tempestate contra perditos paratum est ubique per regnum; sola tantum suis vermibus pepercit Wintonia, populus prudens et providus, ac civitas semper civiliter agens.”
Thomas a Becket, who had been murdered a few years antecedently.
Soap was first made in London in 1524; prior to which time it had been supplied by Bristol.
Good Friday.
It was the custom, where sufficient testimony could not be had, to allow the accused to clear himself from the charge by his oath; this was called purgation. The oath having been made, twelve persons, called compurgators, were produced on the prisoner's behalf, who swore, that, from what they knew of his general character, they believed his oath. This was deemed satisfactory.