According to Worcester Cathedral's late eleventh-century sub-prior, Hemming, Bishop Wulfstan oversaw the maintenance and restoration of the cathedral's archive during his episcopate. After restoring and organizing the cathedral's store of ancient records, he directed that the various "primitive testaments and privileges" should be copied into the Cathedral's bible (in bibliotheca sanctae aecclesiae) "in the same order" (eodem ordine). The four large manuscript leaves bound within BL MS Cotton Nero E. i., part 2 (fos. 181 - 4), together with a fifth cartulary leaf that had been divided for reuse as account book covers and two fragments of a sixth leaf (now deposited in the British Library as Additional MS 46204) which were found in 1911 by William Stevenson among the manuscripts owned by Digby Willoughby, Lord Middleton, appear to be the remnants of the cartulary that Bishop Wulfstan ordered to be compiled.
The four intact leaves from this group were bound in the Cotton Nero E. i manuscript in a different order from that in which they were apparently bound in their original manuscript context, and they have been trimmed substantially: their current dimensions were noted by Stevenson as approx. 16" x 11" (406 x 279 mm). (Stevenson, Report, 198) Stevenson discovered the fragments currently designated BL Additional MS 46204 in 1911 among manuscripts owned by Lord Middleton. Although these fragments had been mutilated since their separation from their original manuscript context, the dimensions of the most complete surviving manuscript leaf had not been trimmed as drastically as those folios bound in Nero E. i: Stevenson gave its dimensions as 17.5" x 12" (445 x 305 mm). (Stevenson, Report, 197 8) Ker noted that the written space of the Nero-Middleton folios measure approximately 356 x 253 mm, with a 23 mm-wide margin dividing the text block. (Ker, "Offa Bible", 78)The size and layout of the cartulary leaves is similar to those of ten surviving leaves from an eighth-century bible that Stevenson also found among the same volume of scrap parchment within the Middleton archive (now BL Additional MS 37777), leading scholars C. H. Turner, Ivor Atkins and Neil Ker to subsequently propose that the cartulary and bible had once been bound together.
In 1916, C. H. Turner suggested that the fragmentary cartulary should be designated as "The St. Oswald Cartulary", named after the late tenth-century bishop of Worcester whose series of episcopal leases figure so prominently in the better-known Worcester cartularies bound within BL MS Cotton Tiberius A. xiii. Turner believed, as Kemble and Stevenson had before him, that the Nero-Middleton cartulary fragments dated from the late tenth century and therefore were the remnants of the earliest of Worcester Cathedral's cartularies. In the mid-twentieth century, Neil Ker conducted a more extensive palaeographical analysis of early Worcester manuscripts. He revised the date of the Nero-Middleton cartulary fragments to the last quarter of the eleventh century, and (together with Ivor Atkins) argued that the remnants were likely the remains of the cartulary that Hemming said had been ordered compiled by St. Wulfstan. The "St. Wulfstan Cartulary" designation that I have chosen to apply to the fragments of this cartulary reflects this likely attribution.
Scholars who have studied these cartulary fragments in relation to other early Worcester acta have noted both the textual difference and the organizational similarity between the texts in the St. Wulfstan Cartulary and those of the earlier of the two Worcester cartularies bound within BL MS Cotton Tiberius A. xiii (the Liber Wigorniensis). William Stevenson remarked:
"It is noticeable that the order of documents in this chartulary [sic] agrees with that followed in the later and better known Worcester collection, which was compiled by the monk Heming [sic] by order of Bishop Wulfstan, who died in 1095. The texts of the charters given below have been collated with the MS. of Heming (Cotton Tiberius A. 13). [. . .] The collations with Heming shew that his texts are frequently longer than those in the earlier chartulary [i.e., Nero-Middleton], and that he gives immunity clauses that do not occur in it. As the text of the original on No. 1 has come down to us [i.e., S 76], and as it agrees with Heming against the older chartulary, it is clear that the differences between the texts of the later and of Heming are due to abbreviation in the earlier chartulary and not to expansions by Heming. It was probably the omission of the immunity clauses that decided Bishop Wulfstan to order the compilation of a new chartulary within a century or less of the completion of this earlier one. The collations also show that Heming adhered much more closely to the orthography of the Anglo-Saxon words in the original texts than did the compilers of the earlier chartulary, and that he has preserved many archaic and dialectical forms that were modernised in the work of his predecessor. The latter omitted the crosses and Christian monogram (the chrismon) at the commencement of the texts, but they are reproduced by Heming." (Stevenson, Report, 198 9)
Stevenson's judgement, of course, was predicated on the supposition that all of BL MS Cotton Tiberius A. xiii had been the work of the late eleventh-century Worcester monk, Hemming, and that "Hemming's Cartulary" had been compiled at Bishop Wulfstan's direction from the single-sheet acta in Worcester's eleventh-century archive: in his opinion, the expanded texts in the Tiberius manuscript reflected Hemming's own purely antiquarian interests.
Ker's revision of the dates for both the Nero-Middleton fragments and the two cartularies bound within BL MS Cotton Tiberius A. xiii led him to propose an exemplar/copy relationship between Liber Wigornensis (which he called "Tiberius A") and the Nero-Middleton fragments from St. Wulfstan's Cartulary. Ker regarded the Nero-Middleton texts as merely abbreviated versions of the LW texts, and dismissed their value: “The texts in Nero-Middleton are useless. They are not merely abbreviated, but abbreviated very carelessly.” (Ker, “Hemming's Cartulary”, 66)
While I generally agree with Ker's palaeographical analysis of the various early Worcester cartularies, I disagree with his assessment of the implications of the textual variations among the various versions of the acta recorded in Worcester's early cartularies. My own analysis of the St. Wulfstan Cartulary texts indicates that the scribes responsible for compiling St. Wulfstan's cartulary worked with care and deliberation. Several of the later texts improve upon the Latin grammar recorded in the corresponding LW versions, and the Old English acta recorded in the St. Wulfstan Cartualry are generally expressed more directly as wellwhich might have contributed to the preference that earlier scholars such as Kemble and Stevenson had for the versions of these texts recorded in BL MS Cotton Nero E. i, part 2. Rather than reflecting scribal incompetence, the observable differences among the various versions of early Worcester records indicate the degree to which Worcester's early record-keepers deliberately introduced both lexical and syntactic variations to their community's records as the contexts in which those records were to be preserved changed. Their preservation of many co-occurring word-strings, on the other hand, indicates that there were select words and phrases whichfor whatever reasonsWorcester's record-keepers chose to retain from the earlier versions of these records.