Calendar of Papal Registers Relating To Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1, 1198-1304. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1893.
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The series of Papal Regesta preserved in the Vatican archives consists of more than two thousand volumes, placed in the order of successive pontificates, and covering the period from the end of the twelfth century to the end of the sixteenth. They contain contemporary, or nearly contemporary, copies of bulls, letters, and similar documents addressed to royal, noble, ecclesiastical, and other persons throughout the world. The system of registration in the Papal Chancery was not, however, nearly so perfect as that in the Chancery of the English kings, and there are still extant in the Public Record Office, in the British Museum, and elsewhere, many original bulls of which no mention can be found in the Regesta. Notwithstanding this defect, the volumes constitute an almost continuous record of very great historical value. They contain diplomatic correspondence, commissions to legates and nuncios, orders concerning ecclesiastical appointments, confirmations of monastic endowments and privileges, dispensations and indults to laymen as well as to clerks, and a vast amount of miscellaneous matter.
Having regard, however, to the great bulk of the original volumes, and the amount of verbiage which they contain, subsequent editors have generally been satisfied with giving abstracts or extracts, and the Regesta of several pontificates have been treated in this manner.
The opening of the Vatican archives to students of all nations, by order of Pope Leo XIII., has enabled the Ecoles Francaises d' Athenes et de Rome, under the direction of the Minister of Public Instruction at Paris, to undertake systematic series of calendars of the Regesta of different pontificates, with a separate editor for each. Up to the present time the following have been set in hand:—
Of the foregoing, the Calendar for the pontificate of Honorius IV. has been completed, and that for the pontificate of Nicholas IV. is almost completed. The others are in different stages of progress.
There is no occasion to enumerate in this place the many books which give in extenso papal bulls and letters relating to particular subjects and countries, but an exception must be made in favour of a folio volume printed at the Vatican in 1864, in which the late Father A. Theiner collected extracts from the archives relating to Ireland and Scotland between the years 1216 and 1547 inclusive, under the title of “Vetera Monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum historiam illustrantia.” The want of an index is a serious detriment to the value of the book.
A somewhat similar collection of papal bulls and letters relating to England, Scotland, and Ireland alike, made by the late Abbate Marino Marini, covers the period from 1216 to 1759, and extends to fifty manuscript volumes, which were transferred from the State Paper Office to the British Museum in 1845 (Add. MSS. 15,351–15,400). Dean Milman made some use of this collection in his History of Latin Christianity, but its existence is not very generally known to students.
The object of the present undertaking is to provide an English Calendar of all entries in the Papal Regesta of the middle ages which illustrate the history of Great Britain and Ireland. For this purpose the successive volumes have been examined page by page, and, although it would be too much to say that nothing has been overlooked, the number of entries given is very materially larger than that given by Marini.
Every entry that the editor has seen relating to Great Britain and Ireland is notcied in its due order in the Calendar, but formal clauses of frequent recurrence have been omitted, as also certain details which may be found in printed books, to which references are given.
As in the Calendars of the mediæval Patent Rolls and Close Rolls, which are being issued under the superintendence of the Deputy Keeper of the Records, ordinary Christian names are given in this Calendar according to their commonest modern English forms, while surnames, on the other hand, are given according to the form used in the Regesta.
Most names of places are given in the Calendar according to the form used in the Regesta, the ordinary abbreviations being extended. “Those, however, which occur in obviously Latinised forms, have been translated and printed according to the modern form, the original rendering being in some cases retained within brackets.”
“In the Index, too, the names of places are given according to their ordinary modern form, when they can be identified with certainty and without difficulty.” (fn. 1)
Some very fine photographic reproductions of selected leaves from the Papal Regesta may be seen in a volume published at the Vatican in 1888, under the title of “Specimina palæographica Regestorum Romanorum Pontificum.” Although the originals do not present so many palæographical difficulties as the mediæval rolls of the English Chancery, difficulties which are explained in Mr. Maxwell Lyte's prefaces to the official Calendars of Patent Rolls and Close Rolls, the abbreviations are sometimes perplexing. More frequent confusion arises from the very erroneous manner in which the papal scribes copied, perhaps from dictation, the names of persons and places in distant lands. An attempt has been made in the Index to give proper names in a recognisable form, but in many cases the task of identification has proved hopeless.
The Deputy Keeper of the Records has laid down the rules for the formation of this Calendar, and has settled many difficulties which have from time to time arisen. The editor has to thank Mr. C. T. Martin for many very valuable corrections and suggestions, and Mr. H. Rodney for assistance in the revision of the Index.