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III. The Pipe Rolls and the Historians, 1600–1883

  • Lady Stenton (a1)

It is a remarkable fact that the only continuous series of records which has survived from the twelfth century, the Great Rolls of the Pipe, was not completely available in print with adequate indexes until the thirties of the twentieth century. The search for an explanation takes one back to the beginnings of English medieval scholarship in the early seventeenth century. The great antiquaries of that day had not conceived the idea of printing adequately indexed editions of the records they used, for the medieval past, when books were patiently transcribed by hand for circulation, was too near. When scholars met to discuss their work it was of making copies by hand and passing them from one to another that they talked. They were concerned that the notes sent to them should be on ‘paper of the same size for bignesse as the sender first did use’. To them in the seventeenth century, the past was a virgin field in which they had no forerunners; and they themselves aimed at writing history which should stand for ever.

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1 Larking, L. B., ‘On the Surrenden Charters’, Archaeologia Cantiana (1858), pp. 55–8.

2 The Works of John Selden Esq. (ed. Wilkins), v, columns 715, 722, 723, 725.

3 Brady, Robert, An Introduction to the Old English History (1684), The Glossary, pp. 43–4.

4 D[ictionary] of N[ational] B[iography].

5 Brit[ish] Mus[eum] Add. MSS. 25,255. On f. 29d Hakewill quotes the great roll of 38 Edward III, the account of the sheriff of Lancashire.

6 Halliwell, James Orchard, The Autobiography and Correspondence of Sir Simonds D'Ewes, Bart. (2 vols. London 1845), 1, pp. 146, 177.

7 Ibid. I, p. 178.

8 Ibid. I, p. 148.

9 Ibid. I, p. 149.

10 Ibid. I, pp. 149, 150.

11 Ibid. I, pp. 149, 161.

12 Ibid. 1, p. 210.

13 Ibid. I, p. 207.

14 Sir Joseph Ayloffe, Bart., Calendars of the Ancient Charters (1774), p. xxxvii.

15 The Report of the Lords Committees, appointed by the House of Lords to view and consider the Publick Records (London, 1719), pp. 45.

16 Ayloffe, op. cit. p. xxv. The storage of powder and small arms in a magazine immediately underneath the records, made the Tower in later generations an unsuitable repository; see the letter from the Master General and the Board of Ordnance to C. P. Cooper in 1832. Report from the Select Committee on the Record Commission (1836), p. 903.

17 V. H. Galbraith, ‘The Tower as an Exchequer Office’, Essays presented to T. F. Tout, pp. 231–47.

18 Ayloffe, op. cit. pp. xxvii–xxix and D.N.B.

19 Ayloffe, op. cit. p. xxix.

20 Autobiography, I, p. 235.

21 Autobiography, I, pp. 293–4.

22 Ibid. I, p. 294.

23 Ibid. 1, p. 432.

24 Ibid. I, p. 235–6.

25 Ibid. 1, p. 438.

26 Autobiography, 11, pp. 73, 77, 87.

27 Prynne, William, Aurum Regince (London, 1668), Additional Appendix, p. 5.

28 Autobiography, II, p. 105.

29 Ibid. II, p. 90.

30 Ayloffe, op. cit. p. xxx.

31 The Repertorie of Records (London, 1631), dedicated ‘To the unknowne Patron’ with a poem which begins ‘This worke I did intend to Mercury. Before his wings were sicke, and he could fly: But now the Gods incensed, all together Have layd diseases upon every feather:… ’ The following page runs ‘To the same Patron, the great master of this mysterie Our author payeth this, in part of a more Summe due’. It seems highly probable that the unknown patron is Sir Robert Cotton to whom Agarde bequeathed his papers. Powell probably borrowed Agarde’s catalogue of records in the four treasuries from Sir Robert for printing in this book. Hence the hint in the poem that the author might seem to show ‘unthankfulnesse’ if he did not acknowledge the debt. In 1629 Cotton fell into disgrace with the king. He died in 1631.

32 Hamper, W., The Life, Diary, and Correspondence of Sir William Dugdale (London, 1827), p. 169.

33 Ibid. p. 170.

34 Ibid. p. 177.

35 Brit. Mus. Cott. Vitelius E v ff. 50–67d; f. 62 contains extracts from a roll of Henry II and f. 62 d is blank. Dugdale’s characteristic writing is familiar from his manuscript remains, Loyd, L. C. and Stenton, D. M., Sir Christopher Hatton's Book of Seals (Oxford, 1950), p. xxiii. For additions made by Sir Thomas Cotton to his father's library see Book of Seals, pp. xxxvi and xxxix.

36 Hamper, op. cit. p. 177 note.

37 Hunter, J., Three Catalogues being the contents of the Red Book of the Exchequer, of the Dodsworth Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and of the Manuscripts in the Library of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn (London, 1838), pp. 100–3.

38 N. Denholm-Young and H. E. E. Craster, Roger Dodsworth (1585–1654) and his circle, reprinted from the Journal of the Yorks. Arch. Soc. xxxii (1934), p. 29.

39 Cooper, C. P., An Account of the Most Important Public Records of Great Britain and the Publications of the Record Commissioners, ii (London, 1832), pp. 340–5.

40 P. 9.

41 J. Hunter, op. cit. p. 101.

42 Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 970–2.

43 John Nicholls, Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, I, p. 415.

44 Brit. Mus. Harl. MSS. 971 f. 22b.

45 Bingham, C. W., Private Memoirs of John Potenger Esq. (London, 1841).

46 Actually it was the office of Deputy-Controller; see Coke, Institutes, pt. 4, p. 106.

47 C. W. Bingham, op. cit. p. 42–3.

48 Report from the Commissioners on the Public Records (1837), p. xviii.

49 First Report of the Royal Commission on the Public Records (10.12), Appendices, p. 34.

50 The History and Antiquities of The Exchequer (London, 1711), Disceptatio Epistolaris, p. 64.

51 The History and Antiquities of the Exchequer, pp. iv–v.

52 Ibid. p. ii.

53 Report of the Lords Committees (London, 1719), pp. 50–2.

54 Ibid. pp. 65–7.

55 An Index to the Records with Directions to the several places where they are to be found (London, 1739), p. 64.

56 Report from the Commissioners on the Public Records Appendix (G. 76) (1837), p. 199. Nicolas, Nicholas Harris, Additional Facts relative to the Record Commission and Record Offices (London, 1831), p. 152.

57 Nicolson, W., The English Historical Library (1714), p. 204.

58 Ibid. p. 209.

59 Rotulus Cancellarii … de tertio anno Regni Regis Johannis (1833), p. ix.

60 V. H. Galbraith, op. cit. p. 243.

61 W. Nicolson, op. cit. p. 209.

62 Brit. Mus. Lansdowne MSS. 219.

63 For Carte see J. Nicholls, Literary Anecdotes, 11, pp. 471–518, and D.N.B.

64 J. Nicholls, op. cit. p. 489.

65 J. Nicholls, op. cit. p. 495, gives the substance of this ‘obnoxious note’. Nicholls says that the note was not Carte's own but that he ‘was over-persuaded to insert’ it ‘after the sheet in which it was printed was actually committed to the press’.

66 The History of the Life of King Henry the second.

67 Ayloffe, op. cit.

68 Ibid. p. v.

69 This paper was published in 1756.

70 J. H. Round, Feudal England, pp. 3–4.

71 Brit. Mus. Lansdowne MSS. 322.

72 Report of the Committee on the ‘Report’, ‘Additional Statement’, and ‘Letter’ of Mr Palgrave (May 1831), Record Commission (London, 1832), p. 15.

73 Reports from the Commissioners on the Public Records (1819), Appendix (E. 1), p. 47.

74 Ibid. p. 46.

75 Report from the Commissioners on the Public Records (1837), Appendix (G. 8.), p. 199.

76 Ibid. loc. cit.

77 Ibid. p. 200.

78 C. P. Cooper, Public Records, I, p. 317, quoted from an unpublished tract written by William Illingworth, who said in it that ‘the fees at the Pipe Office are five times the amount stated in the return of the late Mr Lowton, Deputy Clerk of the Pipe in the year 1800; and the attorneys demanding these fees are unable to read any of the Rolls’. Nicolas, N. Harris, Letter to … Lord High Chancellor (London, 1832), Appendix, p. 132.

79 Nicolas, N. Harris, Observations on the state of Historical Literature (London, 1830), p. 45.

80 Refutation of Mr Palgrave's Remarks in reply to Observations on the state of Historical Literature (London, 1831), p. 161: ‘None but an antiquary can adequately judge the impropriety of such an act as this, and yet it has been done by a gentleman who for twenty-four years has been Secretary to the Record Commission.’ For the evidence about Caley's treatment of seals see Report from the Select Committee on the Record Commission (1836), p. 61.

81 Report from the Select Committee (1836), pp. 59–60, 96.

82 A comparative account of the Works produced and the Money received by the Commissioners of the Public Records during two periods of five years before and five years after the 12th of March 1831 (London, 1837).

83 Refutation of Mr Palgrave's Remarks in reply to Observations on the state of Historical Literature (London, 1831). A letter to … Lord High Chancellor (London, 1832). The Public Advantages of entrusting the Records of the Exchequer … to the irresponsible custody of the King's Remembrancer (London, 1834) was anonymous, but bears all the signs of Harris Nicolas's biting irony.

84 Report of the Committee on the ‘Report’ … (May 1831) (London, 1832), p. 15.

85 C. P. Cooper, Public Records, 1, p. 317. William Illingworth claimed that he himself was the real author of this book, Report from the Select Committee on the Record Commission (1836), pp. 55–6.

86 Report from the Commissioners on the Public Records (1837), p. xvi.

87 Sims, Richard, A Manual for the Genealogist, Topographer, Antiquary, and Legal Professor (London, 1856), p. 462.

88 J. Hunter, The Great Roll of the Pipe 31 Henry I (1833), p. i.

89 Report from the Select Committee on the Record Commission (1836), p. 620.

90 Report from the Select Committee on the Record Commission (1836), p. iii.

91 Ibid. pp. 618–19.

92 For a just contemporary appraisement of the work of the Commission see Letters from eminent Historical Writers relating to the publications of the Board of Commissioners on the Public Records, Record Commission (London, 1836).

93 See for example the evidence of Hunter, Joseph, Report from the Select Committee on the Record Commission (1836), pp. 687–91.

94 Observations upon the Report from the Select committee of the House of Commons (1837), P. 42.

95 Letters from eminent Historical Writers (London, 1836), Appendix, p. 61.

96 Hunter, J., A letter to Patrick Fraser Tytler Esq. (London, 1837).

97 J. Hunter, The Great Rolls of the Pipe 2, 3 and 4 Henry II (1844), preface.

98 At the end of this article I should like to acknowledge most gratefully my debt to the many scholars who have elucidated the history of English records. I owe much, for example, to Professor D. C. Douglas for the stimulus of his book on English Scholars, and to Dr C. E. Wright and Mr Philip Styles for their work on the antiquarian circles of the mid-seventeenth century. But above all I wish to record my thanks to Sir Charles Firth for an introduction to the subject, for the gift of books bearing upon it, and for the memory of conversations in a study where William Lambarde, Joseph Hunter and all others of their kind moved again as living men.

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