The Scriptorium of Margam Abbey and the Scribes of Early Angevin Glamorgen: Secretarial Administration in a Welsh Marcher Barony, C. 1150-C. 1225

By Griffiths, Ralph A. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2002 | Go to article overview

The Scriptorium of Margam Abbey and the Scribes of Early Angevin Glamorgen: Secretarial Administration in a Welsh Marcher Barony, C. 1150-C. 1225


Griffiths, Ralph A., The Catholic Historical Review


The Scriptorium of Margam Abbey and the Scribes of Early Angevin Glamorgan: Secretarial Administration in a Welsh Marcher Barony, c. 1150-c. 1225. By Robert B. Patterson. (Woodbridge, Suffolk; Rochester, New York: The Boydell Press. 2002. Pp. xxxvi, 147; plates XXXII. $110; L60.)

During the past thirty years, Professor Patterson has been identifying, dating, arranging, and interpreting original charters and their copies relating to the earldom of Gloucester during the Norman and Angevin periods. This has taken him into the Welsh marcher lordship of Glamorgan, whose conquest was launched from Gloucester and Bristol, and it has meant attempting to reconstitute the most prominent of the monastic archives-especially of St. Peter's Abbey, Gloucester, and Margam Abbey in Glamorgan. Patterson's particular fascination is to enter the writing offices (or scriptoria) of the monasteries and the earls, even to identify the clerks who wrote the charters that are such a valuable source for the modern historian-if not by name, then at least to identify the clerks' individual collections of writings. It is difficult work, requiring advanced palaeographical and diplomatic skills, with no assurance of being able to solve all the conundrums. The present volume focuses on the rich Glamorgan abbey of Margam, whose surviving charter collection is substantial.

By this means, Patterson seeks to throw light on the secretarial administrations in Glamorgan at an early stage in the lordship's development after the Norman conquest of Welsh kingdoms in southeast Wales. His study has significance too for the evolution of marcher administrations elsewhere and of the business of writing for landlords in Norman and Angevin England. The book has two parts. The first is a discussion, in an introduction and four chapters, of the administration of Glamorgan to c. 1225 and the beginning of the Clare lordship, and of the place of Margam Abbey's clerks in it and their relationship to the earl's own secretariat. The second part, three appendices and thirty-two photographs of documents, provides some of the evidence on which the earlier discussion is based, in particular Patterson's identification of scribal hands, together with lists of the surviving original acta and rolls relating to Glamorgan for the century after 1130, the date of the foundation charter of Neath Abbey (happily recently acquired by the West Glamorgan Archive Service). …

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