The Medieval Records of A London City Church St Mary At Hill, 1420-1559. Originally published by Trübner, London, 1905.
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CHAPTER I. THE MANUSCRIPTS.
The question naturally arises—What do these Records tell us ? To this the answer may fairly be made that, with certain exceptions, they show us clearly the whole system of medieval life as connected with a common city parish church.
MS. 1239/2, which we may designate as MS. B, is far the less important, and may therefore be very shortly and at once described. It is a large volume standing about twenty inches high, twelve inches wide, and about three inches in thickness. It is bound in parchment, apparently by the same binder by whom MS. A was rebound, probably about a.d. 1559. The presence of the book (much of it a duplicate of the other) is explained, in a measure, by the following inscription on the first page:—
|This Booke was made, And the moste parte therin wryten, by the handes of Iohn halhed, grocer, a parischen of the parysche of Seynte Mary at hyll', on whoes sowle Allmyghttye God haue mercye: Amen, for charyte.||anno 1486|
The book contains an abbreviated copy of part of the substance of the larger book, copies of most of the Wills under which the church of St. Mary at Hill held property, Inventories, etc. About half the leaves of this volume are blank, the first 114 and two near the end alone being occupied by text.
The Leaves.—All the leaves, 821 in number, are of paper, and nearly all of them are of the same size and substance. The first leaves are missing, and how many are wanting at this place it is impossible now to even guess. With perhaps the exception of the Porth Inventory, the leaves up to the year 1537 are probably in their right order. After this date, the proper sequence of the leaves 696–763 is chronologically a good deal disturbed in the MS. In our text, however, an endeavour has been made to print the accounts throughout in their proper order.
The Writing.—The writing of this MS. varies very considerably, sometimes being very beautifully inscribed, at other times it is set down with great carelessness. In 1524 the writing and spelling are perhaps at their best (see facsimile, p. 322), in 1506 at their wildest.
The entries have been inserted under the authority and possibly sometimes by the hands of the churchwardens. From the manner in which they are set down, the entries were clearly not inserted at the period of each receipt or payment, but from notes made elsewhere. Probably the main text of the MS. is the work of a succession of professional scribes, see the yearly sum expended for writing the Accounts. But additions in various hands have sometimes been appended at the end of the year. The actual handwriting of more than one person is distinctly specified as being present, pp. 260 and 268.
An interesting circumstance lies in the fact that many pages of the MS. have been headed with the name of 'Ihesus,' a tribute to-day of the simple faith and piety of the individuals by whom such inscriptions were placed.
Spelling.—The spelling, as was common in the middle ages, is very uncertain. Several instances occur of the transposition of letters and syllables: 'chollve,' p. 255; 'spalter,' p. 389;—shovel, psalter.
Reference to this MS.—Probably the following note entered in the wardens' accounts in 1504–5 has reference to this MS.: —'payde for a parchementt skyn, & for settyng in of the paper in þe olde boke of þe Chyrche wardens Acowntt—viij d,' p. 256.