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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Red Book of Thorney (vol. 1)

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Introduction</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Thorney Abbey was the smallest of three fenland monasteries re-founded by Bishop Aethelwold in the tenth century. Virtually nothing is known about the management of its estates and the 'Red Book of Thorney' (MSS Add. 3020 and 3021) is its sole surviving cartulary. Compiled in the early fourteenth century with later additions, many of which concern deeds omitted from the main sections, it is both elegant and, for the most part, highly organised. The main entries have contemporary folio and charter numbers in red ink. There are also headers and footers in red ink. Rubrics, again in red ink, indicate the subject matter of individual entries and also provide much incidental detail. The royal and topographical sections are divided into eight parts, followed by a ninth with miscellaneous fines, agreements and ecclesiastical documents, together with a particularly valuable <i>De Gestis Abbatum</i>. Annotations, contemporary and later, and cross references are frequent and indicate that the cartulary was designed to be used.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The cartulary as a whole contains transcriptions of material from before the Conquest to 1531, with a special wealth of thirteenth-century charters. Witness lists are given but not usually in full. The black ink entries in <i>De Gestis Abbatum</i> record a rich mixture of documents relating <i>inter alia</i> to estates, advowsons, fen disputes and grants to the convent. The red ink entries, which describe each abbacy, contain much information about elections, vacancies, building works and land dealings.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>There is no printed edition of the cartulary. Its contents are examined in S. Raban, <i>The Estates of Thorney and Crowland</i>, University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economy, Occasional Paper, 7 (1977) and S.G. Raban, 'The Property of Thorney and Crowland Abbeys' (unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1972).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Sandra Raban</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Conservation of the manuscript</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In 2015, thanks to a generous gift from Sandra and Tony Raban, members of the Friends of Cambridge University Library, both volumes of the Red Book of Thorney were conserved, digitised and rebound. The conservation and rebinding work was undertaken by Shaun Thompson, of the Library's Conservation and Collection Care Department. He described the process, as well as the materials and techniques applied, in a post on the Library's Special Collections Blog, <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Rebinding the Red Book of Thorney</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></p>

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