The Library of Peterborough Abbey
Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, Volume 8
Distributed for British Library
This volume brings together every catalogue and book-list to survive from the library of Peterborough Abbey, one of the great monastic houses of medieval England. The lists range in date from the tenth-century bequest of Bishop pthelwold of Winchester (the first such record to survive from England) to the select list of titles recorded by John Leland prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A catalogue of the early twelfth century records 61 titles, and may conceivably be a record of what had survived the flames of a disastrous fire in 1116. A long list of abbatial bequests to the library covers the years 1177-1391 and includes the important donation of Abbot Benedict (1177-1193). The chief catalogue to survive is the so-called Matricularium, a peculiar and complicated document of the late fourteenth century, attesting some 347 compendious volumes.
Certainly, this number of books can only represent a portion of the collection at the time, but the catalogue remains enormously valuable since it records the many subsidiary titles in each volume instead of merely the first, and allows a small number of surviving manuscripts to be identified as having been at Peterborough. Also included in this volume are texts which relate to the practice of reading in the abbey: the cycle of refectory reading during the liturgical year, and the annual distribution in Lent of books for private reading.