Professor Richard Sharpe

M.A., Ph.D., F.B.A., F.S.A., F.R.Hist.S

History Faculty, Wadham College


Anglo-Norman Royal Acta
Latin Sermon
Latin Writers
Le bibliothécaire médiéval
Medieval Library Catalogues

British Medieval Library Catalogues

Libraries have been fundamental to all humanistic inquiry since antiquity. Catalogues compiled in the middle ages provide the means to understand what books were available and how they were organized and used, even though the libraries themselves were dispersed centuries ago and most of the actual books lost. Some itemize all texts in each volume and so provide a full picture of the contents of a library at a particular time, others inventorize books as objects and refer only to the principal text contained; for some libraries there survives a whole series of catalogues, allowing one to trace the development of the collection, while others were dynamic documents, added to and altered by successive librarians over a long period. Such documents can be very difficult to understand, demanding a great deal of knowledge (both of texts and manuscripts) to make sense of them. When their medieval references to individual texts are understood, however, they provide an essential perspective on medieval intellectual life. They show what texts might be available at a particular period in a certain sort of institution, revealing what a scholar there might have had access to, and they allow us also to see how knowledge was organized. They underpin our knowledge of monastic learning and of university curricula. It is possible to trace surviving books that bear evidence of their medieval library-provenance; in rare cases we find enough survivors with shelf-marks to begin to reconstruct the organization of the library. Medieval catalogues make this possible for many more libraries than do surviving books, and, almost more importantly, for libraries of different kinds. One can form a picture of a typical library of a certain kind in a certain period, and one can see the particular contents of some unusually good libraries. Every effort is made to trace where the medieval manuscript survives, since comparison with the book itself enhances one’s reading of the medieval catalogue.

The project deals with fundamental evidence for the transmission of culture. Our work provides a guide to British library records from the earliest, a short list from the tenth century, down to the mid sixteenth century. Our definition of ‘medieval’ is therefore wide enough to include many works of Renaissance humanism, and through the whole period libraries had very many copies of Classical and Patristic texts. The learning documented extends over a very long period and many subject areas, with the consequence that many users will require bibliographical orientation as well as help in interpreting the medieval titles and attributions. Our project has taken both the examination and the explication of medieval booklists to a new level, deliberately annotating in such a way as to enable users to learn how to make sense of these documents. It is possible from our volumes to train oneself in the use of a large class of source material, but our indexes and notes are equally accessible for the user who wants to find out about lost copies of a particular text or about the resources known to have been available in a particular medieval institution or group of institutions.

All of the files may be downloaded in postscript format for printing or displayed on screen (and searched) using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The reader is freely available and can be obtained directly from Adobe. For best performance save the files to your computer (ctrl + click).

For regular use of the List of Identifications, readers are recommended to print copies of the introduction and keys to abbreviations and to medieval documents, so that they can become familar with the methods of the list.

(updated 27/01/03)

Key to Abbrevations

Key to Medieval Documents
(updated 27/01/03)

List of Volumes in the Series
(updated 10/09/08)

List of Identifications - 780 pages
(updated 10/09/08)

Update to Latin Writers

The update to Latin Writers may be displayed on screen (and searched) using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The reader is freely available and can be obtained directly from Adobe.

The Adobe Acrobat Reader version of the update to Latin Writers - 163KB

Professor Richard Sharpe's Publications

Professor Sharpe's publication list may be displayed on screen (and searched) using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The reader is freely available and can be obtained directly from Adobe.

The Adobe Acrobat Reader version of Professor Sharpe's publications
259KB (updated September 2011)

Anselm 2009

In time for the Anselm centenary, the editors and publishers of Journal of Medieval Latin have allowed me to make available ahead of print publication the following paper, 'Anselm as Author: Publishing in the late eleventh century', Journal of Medieval Latin 19 (2009), 1--87. It can be downloaded as a pdf:

The Bodleian Library, Lambeth Palace Library, and Trinity College Cambridge have made possible a one-day symposium to discuss five of the most important early manuscripts of Anselm's writings in Room 132, New Bodleian Library, on 27 April 2009. Presentations will begin at 10.30 and continue until 16.30. There will also be an opportunity to view the manuscripts. Poster can be downloaded as a pdf:

Anglo-Norman Royal Acta

The AHRB is currently funding the third phase of my work on Anglo-Norman royal acta, the edition of the writs and charters of Henry I. Work began in earnest in October 2003. The project has two full-time researchers, Hugh Doherty and Mark Hagger; we also have a part-time contribution from Nicholas Karn, a British Academy post-doctoral fellow at Christ Church, Oxford. This project is funded until September 2006.

Our first major target is a draft text, covering the known acta of Henry I and those new ones discovered as work progresses, by March 2005. On current figures (updated in October 2004), this involves about 1630 documents from about 330 beneficiary archives.

The guidelines for the edition, developed during work on the writs and charters of William II, together with a sample beneficiary archive in draft, are available. The sample of draft, Blyth Priory, is a well-preserved archive of convenient size, which presents some unusual and interesting features. Comments will be welcome.

The second phase, a draft edition of the writs and charters of William II was accomplished during 2002-3. This was prepared by Nicholas Karn and me (with financial support from the British Academy and the University of Oxford).

The first phase, compiling a database in MS-Access of all the known acta of William I, William II, Henry I, and Stephen (including those of queens and regents), was completed in 2001-2 by Nicholas Karn and me (funded by a major project grant from the Aurelius Trust).

Latin Sermon

The text of the Latin Sermon delivered by Professor Richard Sharpe in the University Church on Sunday, 19 January 2003 is available.

Le bibliothécaire médiéval et son héritage

The text of the lecture delivered at the Sorbonne, 18 September 2003, under the auspices of Prof Jean-Philippe Genet and the organisation APICES is available.

Last updated: 15 September, 2008