Priests and their Books in Late Anglo-Saxon England [Paperback]

Gerald P. Dyson(Author)

ISBN: 9781783276387 | Published by: Boydell Press | Series: Anglo-Saxon Studies | Volume: 34 | Year of Publication: 2021 | 296p, H9.25 x W6.25, 9 b/w illus.
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Priests and their Books in Late Anglo-Saxon England


Priests were ubiquitous figures in the Anglo-Saxon world: they acted as educators, agents of royal authority, scribes, and dealers in real estate. But what set priests apart from the society in which they lived was the authority to provide pastoral care and their ability to use the written word. Early medieval bishops saw books as indispensable to a priest's duties and episcopal legislation frequently provided lists of books that priests were to have: tools of the trade for the secular clergy. These books are not only an exceedingly valuable window into pastoral care, but also a barometer for the changes taking place in the English church of the tenth and eleventh centuries.
This first full-length study of Anglo-Saxon priests' books examines a wide array of evidence, including booklists, music, liturgy, narrative, and, crucially, the surviving manuscripts. The volume opens with a consideration of the context of a priest's life and work, moving on to investigate the issues of clerical literacy and the availability of books to priests, uncovering avenues for priestly education and elucidating the role that the secular clergy played in channels of manuscript production and distribution. The second part analyses the documentary and manuscript evidence for certain classes of priests' books, challenging existing thought and arguing that two poorly understood manuscripts are in fact books for priests.

GERALD P. DYSON is Assistant Professor of History at Kentucky Christian University.

Table of Contents

Priests, Books, and Pastoral Care
"Ne cunnon þæt leden understandan": Issues of Clerical Literacy
Demand and Supply: Production and Provision of Books for Priests
Preaching and Homiletic Books for Priests
Performing the Liturgy: Priests' Books for the Mass and Office
Locating Penitentials, Manuals, and Computi

Reviews & Quotes

"A compelling and original book...This outstanding first book...has launched a medieval historian of tremendous promise."


"A book not just for historians but for all medievalists who work on the texts, both Latin and vernacular, of Anglo-Saxon England."


"Dyson's study of Anglo-Saxon priests' books, the first full-length study of its kind, advances our understanding of the secular priests who formed the largest literate group in tenth- and eleventh-century England and whose ministries touched the lives of most Christians. Deeply researched, judiciously argued, and clearly written, it offers an accessible overview of priestly expectations and duties, and will prove a reliable guide to further exploration and discovery of the texts and contexts of late Anglo-Saxon pastoral care."
Robert K. Upchurch
Journal of English and Germanic Philology ()

"[A] carefully argued and learned account of how the clergy in pre-Conquest England were able to obtain liturgical books and put them to use in pastoral care."
Julia Barrow
Journal of British Studies ()

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