Reginald Pecock, John Carpenter and John Colop's 'Common-Profit' Books: Aspects of Book Ownership and Circulation in Fifteenth-Century London

By Scase, Wendy | Medium Aevum, Fall 1992 | Go to article overview

Reginald Pecock, John Carpenter and John Colop's 'Common-Profit' Books: Aspects of Book Ownership and Circulation in Fifteenth-Century London


Scase, Wendy, Medium Aevum


Several fifteenth-century manuscripts of religious writings in English have long been recognized as a group of |common-profit' books. All of them bear similar inscriptions to that effect. Cambridge University Library, MS Ff.vi.31, a manuscript which includes mystical writings and several Lollard treatises, affords the following example:

This booke was made of pe goodis of John Collopp for a comyn profite, that

pat persoone pat hath pis booke committid to him off pe persoone pat hap

power to committe it haue pe vse perof pe teerme of his lijf prayng for pe soule

of pe seid John. And pat he pat hap pe forseid vse of commyssioun, whanne he

occupieth it not leene it for a tyme to sum oper persoone. Also pat persoone to

whom it was committid for pe teerme of lijf under pe forseid condiciouns

delyuere it to anoper persoone pe teerme of his lijf, and so be it delyuered and

committed fro persoone to persoone man or womman as longe as pe booke

endureth. (f. 100.sup.r)

Other books bear identical inscriptions, with the exception that the name of the donor differs. London, British Library, MS Harley 993 (Hilton's translation The Eight Chapters on Perfection) was made from the goods of Robert Holland (that is, financed by the proceeds from his estate); London, British Library, MS Harley 2336 (The Pore Caitiff) from the goods of John Gamalin; London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 472 (Hilton's Scale, Eight Chapters and Epistle on the Mixed Life, and commentaries on Psalm xc, Psalm xci and the Benedictus) from the goods of John Killum; and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 25 (the Speculum Ecclesie in English) from |pe goodis of a certeyne persoone' (f. [72.sup.r]). The manuscripts hearing the inscription were first listed by H. S. Bennett.(1) Some information on the textual and historical affiliations of these books has been compiled by A. I. Doyle.(2) Here additional materials will be considered which may allow us to add more detail to what is known of the context for these books, and consideration will be given in the light of this context to the possible implications of the common-profit scheme as one of several related arrangements for book ownership and circulation in fifteenth-century London.

John Colop, whose goods were used to make CUL MS Ff.vi.31, provides a link with three more of the manuscripts of the group. It was to John Colop that administration of the goods of Robert Holland, shearman, was granted in 1441, after the latter had died intestate.(3) Some association between John Colop and John Gamalin is suggested by their involvement together in the settlement of the property of the London grocer John Sudbury in 1439.(4) John Colop was also executor to John Killum, grocer, who died in 1416. As well as making him an executor of his will, Killum left to Colop, described as his servant, the task of distributing the residue of his property in alms.(5) The book made from Killum's goods (Lambeth MS 472.), bears a second inscription, in addition to the standard common-profit formula, indicating another link with John Colop:

Memorandum pat pis boke be deliuered to Richard Colop Parchemanere of

Londoun after my discesse. And in caas he die or I pen I wol it be take to som

deuowte persone to haue it under pe forme and condicioun wretyn in pe ende

of pis booke heeretofore. Mordon. (f. [261.sup.v])

It has been conjectured that Richard Colop may have been a son or nephew of John.(6) As Richard Colop was a stationer, Doyle proposed that he may have assisted John Colop in the preparation of the other common-profit volumes with which he was associated, probably around the middle of the century.(7) Richard Colop's links with the London book-trade - and therefore John's, if the two were indeed related - are further attested by the recent discovery that he was executor to the bookbinder and stationer Peter Bylton of Paternoster Row, London (fl. …

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Reginald Pecock, John Carpenter and John Colop's 'Common-Profit' Books: Aspects of Book Ownership and Circulation in Fifteenth-Century London
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