Early Medieval Record-Keeping:
exploring the preservation of medieval memoranda
Jonathan Herold, MA, Ph.D.
(Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)

Throughout the early middle ages, many individuals and communities that had been endowed with lands or privileges preserved records of these acts represented as written memoranda. These memoranda were created in a variety of forms and preserved in a variety of contexts. The texts of letters, writs and charters were preserved as single-sheet cartae, but might also be incorporated within literary works such as histories, vitae, or encomia; commemorated within liturgical texts such as calendars, martyrologies and liber vitae; or preserved within specialized collections of diplomata such as cartularies.

My interest in medieval memorialization has led me to investigate the deployment and significance of rhetorical formulas used in early medieval records, particularly among those texts copied into medieval cartularies from putatively original single-sheet acta. My work to date has focused on the earliest cartularies from medieval England, three eleventh-century collections compiled from an archive of single sheet records that apparently had been maintained by record-keepers at Worcester Cathedral since as early as the late seventh century. You may observe the textual interrelationships between these three cartularies in the pages of this web site: I discuss the implications of these interrelationships for the study of medieval modes of memorialization in my doctoral thesis, Memoranda and Memoria: assessing the preservation of acta at eleventh-century Worcester Cathedral (Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, 2008), and in articles and publications that I am preparing.

The early Worcester cartularies provide a unique case for assessing the modus operandi of early medieval record-keepers. These three documentary collections were compiled from Worcester's archive of records for apparently different purposes at three different times during the eleventh century. Although the collections were based on the same body of early records, the contents of each collection and the texts of their collected records differ: the cartularies represent selective 'versions' of Worceter's records, rather than identical 'copies' of the cathedral archive. Assessing the modifications to individual records that Worcester's eleventh-century record-keepers introduced may provide new insights regarding the significance of written memoranda within the medieval community at Worcester Cathedral, as well as illustrating the changing purposes and uses for written records during the early middle ages.

My ongoing research also investigates how early record texts and 'charter rhetoric' were used by medieval writers to establish 'fact' in medieval legal, historical and biographical texts.

This web site first went online in August, 2004 and is in a continual process of development.

The beginning of Hemming's Enucleatio Libelli, in which he briefly described the creation of the 'St. Wulfstan Cartulary' from acta preserved in Worcester Cathedral's early medieval archive:
© The British Library Board. All rights reserved.
BL MS Cotton Tiberius A. xiii, fo. 131v .
Memorialization in the Early Middle Ages