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The present volume contains the first portion of a work, based upon the Concilia Magne Britannie et Hibernia of Wilkins, and aiming at a reproduction of that great work, in accordance with the present state of our knowledge and materials. The extent however of the undertaking is at present limited to the period antecedent to the Reformation. And as the book will thus cover less ground than that of Wilkins, so it has seemed expedient to depart in it also from the arrangement adopted by him, as well as of course and very considerably) from the contents themselves of his book. Acknowledging fully our obligations to him, as having alone rendered a work like the present possible at all, we have not felt bound to retain everything which he admitted, any more than we have tied ourselves to the limits of the materials which were accessible to him. We have acted upon our own judgment, and to an extent that renders our work almost a new work, both in omitting and in adding; save that in the former, we design to omit nothing, except upon the grounds of proved spuriousness, or as substituting a better and earlier authority for a later, or as displacing documents wrongly attributed to our own Church but really translations of e.g. Frankish or other foreign documents.
In point of arrangement, it has seemed more convenient to keep together the documents relating to each period and division of the several national or local branches of the Churches of these islands, placing them chronologically under each of those several periods and divisions. We shall thus have the older British, the Welsh, the Cornish, the Scottish (in the modern sense of the term), the Irish, the Anglo-Saxon documents, besides those of minor or of later divisions, grouped together so as to illustrate one another: and this, at the cost of a very triling amount of rather crossreference than repetition. Wilkins's single and purely chronological arrangement results in the scattering of the few Welsh, Scottish, or Irish documents within his reach, here and there, among contemporary Anglo-Saxon or Norman documents, otherwise for the most part wholly unconnected with them.
In respect to contents the present work varies even far more widely from its predecessor and prototype. For the year 1737, the Concilia of Wilkins was a monument of gigantic labour and learning, and worthily claimed both to rival and to supplant the work, for its date equally wonderful, of Wilkins's own forerunner Spelman. But it is no imputation either upon that indefatigable scholar's industry, or upon his critical skill, to say, that for our present needs, and with our present materials, and according to the sounder canons of present historical and philological knowledge, his work is inadequate, exceedingly defective and incomplete, and (especially in its earlier portions) uncritical : to say nothing of the not few blemishes which disfigure it, of incorrect readings and inaccurate Anglo-Saxon translations. The complete revolution effected in Anglo-Saxon scholarship by the labours of such men as Rask, Grimm, Bosworth, Kemble, Thorpe, etc., and the labours of the last-named upon the special class of Anglo-Saxon documents with which we are concerned, supply ample materials for the remedy of the last-named defect. And the aid in this department kindly promised to us by the Rev. John Baron, M.A., of Queen's College, Oxford, the careful and learned editor of Johnson's English Canons, will enable us we trust, notwithstanding our own very imperfect knowledge of Anglo-Saxon, to make adequate use of them.
In respect to the collection of additional materials and their critical use, it is obvious that abundant helps have become accessible since the days of Wilkins, although until now no attempt has been made to employ them in one great and complete work. Not only are additional collections of MSS., as every one knows, now open, but both their contents and those of other collections have been very largely searched, and catalogued, and published in print. Of printed works,
the Anglo-Saxon Charters collected by Kemble, or in Thorpe’s Diplomatarium,—the laborious editions of Penitentials, and of Anglo-Saxon laws, due to Kunstmanna, Wasserschlebenb, Thorpe, and Schmid",the publications of the Record Commission, and especially (as bringing together critically and thoroughly the entire series of historical sources for the ante-Norman history of Church as well as State) the Monumenta Historica Britannica, and Mr. Hardy's Descriptive Catalogue of MSS. relating to the History of Great Britain and Ireland (so far as it is yet published),—with other scattered sources of information too numerous to specify,--not only supply additional documents, many of them previously buried in MSS. and unknown, but furnish also copious critical help in their selection and arrangement. And the specially ecclesiastical volume of the Ancient Laws and Institutes of England (Rec. Comm. 1840), although singularly unfortunate in its choice of documents to be published, adds to our store nevertheless some that are both important and previously not in print, in addition to the improved Anglo-Saxon text and English version of Anglo-Saxon documents already referred to. Liverania also, and above all Theinere, have so far disclosed the secrets of the Vatican, as to furnish very much of additional material, the latter principally for early mediæval Irish and Scottish Church history; while they increase our curiosity to learn something more still of the untold wealth of like documents, still waiting (we suppose) for the kingdom of Italy to make them entirely accessible to European scholars. Kunstmann, and with a more than German thoroughness, Wasserschleben, as above mentioned, prosecuting enquiries and investigations started by Knust, Mone, Hildenbrand, and others, have critically and almost thoroughly exhausted the store of Continental MSS. of Irish or Anglo-Saxon Penitentials, and have left to us in that particular department the task only of using the additional but important MSS. (unknown to them) in the Bodleian Library and in that of C. C. C. Cambridge. There still remain, among the valuable MSS. at S. Gall, some Irish Canons and fragments of liturgies, etc. yet unpublished, which will enrich our collection of early Irish documents.
· F. Kunstmann, Die Lateinischen Pönitentialbücher der Angel-Sachsen, mit geschichtliche einleitung : Mainz 1844.
F. W. H. Wasserschleben, Die Bussordnungen der Abendländischen Kirche, nebst einer rechtsgeschichtlichen einleitung : Halle 1851.
< Reinhold Schmid, Die Gesetze der AngelSachsen: in der Ursprache mit Übersetzung und Eläuterungen herausgegeben, etc. Erster Theil : Leipzig 1832. Zweite, völlig umgearbeitete
und vermehrte Auflage: Leipzig 1858.
d Franc. Liverani, Spicilegium Liberianum: Florent. 1864.
• Vetera Monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum Historiam illustrantia, quæ ex Vaticani, Neapolis, ac Florentiæ Tabulariis deprompsit et ordine chronologico disposuit Aug. Theiner, Presb. Congr. Oratorii etc. Ab Honorio PP. III. usque ad Paulum PP. III., 1216-1247: Romæ 1864.
All the works, however, above named are either restricted to special departments of Wilkins's comprehensive subject, or include also foreign documents of the class they treat of, or simply help to elucidate the Church history of the period. The task is still left to be done, which we now hope to do, of combining and employing all these various classes of information, in the preparation of a single and complete series of the documentary evidence of the Church history of these islands prior to the Reformation.
To specify a few particulars in a little more detail.-1. The “ Origines” of the British Church were added by Wilkins as an appendix at the end of his work, by an afterthought. And he has merely reprinted there Spelman's long since obsolete speculations upon the subject. The few documents relating to it at the beginning of his first volume, like the mythical council held by Ine A.D. 712, are almost all pure fable. For the period then antecedent to the Saxon invasion, which has left behind no documentary evidence whatever of its own, we have thought it best to collect and arrange every Patristic or Continental allusion to the British Church that can be found. The period which follows, that of S. David and the settlement of the Welsh Church, is somewhat better provided from its own stores, although (with the exception of Gildas) the preservation of such fragmentary remains as it has left, is due either to Brittany or to Irish Churchmen. The former source supplies some Penitential Canons (published first by Martene and Durand); interesting, besides their curious contrast with the legendary conception of the British Church of that time, as throwing back the beginning of the great development of the Penitential system in the West, which is usually attributed to Theodore, to the Celtic Churches which he found in these islands. The latter have preserved fragments of what seems like a second Epistola of Gildas (hitherto, in part, unpublished). The non-historical portion of Gildas' well-known first Epistola is also here reprinted, as bearing upon the