London, British Library, Harley 2110 Ælfric, Homilies; Cartulary of Castle Acre Priory

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Jonathan Wilcox


269. London, British Library, Harley 2110

Ælfric, Homilies; Cartulary of Castle Acre Priory

[Ker 235, Gneuss 428]

HISTORY: Harley 2110 is a cartulary of Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk, dated by Davis (1958: 26) to "c. 1250-60?" with subsequent additions. The manuscript presumably remained at Castle Acre until the priory was dissolved on 22 November 1537. Subsequent use of the collection is traced by Wright (1938: 50-52). The whereabouts of the manuscript immediately after the dissolution is unknown, but it was later in the possession of Sir Simonds D'Ewes (1602-1650), to whom William Dugdale ascribes it in the first edition of his Monasticon (1655). From D'Ewes it passed to Randle Holme (?1601-1659), whose pressmark and title ('GGGG I Deeds of seuerall places I and countys') is written on a parchment paste-down added (wrong way up) to f. 1 *v, and part of whose will (turned 90°) occurs on f. 2*v (see Wanley et al. 1808: 417). The table of places referred to in the cartulary on f. 2*rv is by Randle Holme III (1627-1699) (according to Wanley et al. 1808: 501). The manuscript was one of 260 purchased by Francis Gastrell, Bishop of Chester (1662-1725), on behalf of Robert Harley, first earl of Oxford (1661 -1724), whose pressmark ('97 B.2') occurs on f. 1 *v and whose collection passed to the British Museum (Wright 1938: 52).

Two leaves of OE containing homilies by JElfric served as binding leaves to the cartulary. As Wright (1938: 52-53) observes, "The two JElfric leaves bear on the verso off. 4* and recto off. 5* remains of gum and must have formed part of the binding of the Register; they received their present numbering and mounting when the MS. was rebound in 1879 (14 June-24 July) ." Traces of16c (?) script are apparent running laterally across each of the pages. Wright (1938: 53) reads in the margin of f. 4*r: 'Mgr. Hospitalis See. mariae de pratis inter Northcreic & Brunham[thorp]/ f. 446'. This is a reference to a charter now on f. 50v and demonstrates that these leaves were present in the manuscript in the 16c. In view of the direction of the writing and the size of the leaves (which are cut down to approximately the width of the existing manuscript in their length), they were presumably at that stage bound at 90° from their present orientation. Ker (Cat. , 308) identifies a name scribbled laterally on f. 5*v as 'Iohannes Wynchelse', i.e., John Wynchelsea, prior of Castle Acre in 1510. This demonstrates that the Ælfric leaves were bound with the cartulary in Castle Acre before the dissolution and so represent the surviving fragments of an Ælfric manuscript sent out to the priory in Norfolk after the Norman Conquest, presumably sometime soon after it was first founded in 1089.

The manuscript was again rebound in 1974, according to a note added to f. [154]v, recording that it was examined after binding on 28 March 1974.

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