The Catholic Historical Review 89.3 (2003) 544-545
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English Episcopal Acta, 19: Salisbury, 1078-1217. Edited by B. R. Kemp. (New York: Oxford University Press, for The British Academy. 1999. Pp. cxxiii, 213. $74.00.)
Episcopal acta are the documented decisions of medieval bishops regarding a variety of administrative concerns encompassing both the temporal and spiritual arenas of diocesan government. Typically, they include such things as land grants, episcopal court decisions, disciplinary actions following a visitation, and the disposition of church income such as occurred in the appropriation of parochial benefices by religious corporations. Inevitably some acta were copied into episcopal registers, but many more survive scattered in the archives of beneficiary organizations such as cathedral chapters, religious houses, and collegiate churches. This excellent edition by B. R. Kemp for Salisbury takes its place among other fine volumes for other English dioceses, but the Salisbury material [End Page 544] is especially welcome to church historians and students of medieval diplomatic. The years embraced by this collection, 1150 to 1228, spanned the pontificates of six bishops of unusual administrative and pastoral skill in the English church. Osmund, Roger, and Hubert Walter exerted tremendous influence on the development of the royal chancery and the central administration of the realm; Jocelin de Bohun put his stamp on the diocese during his forty-two years as bishop; Herbert Poore began the process of moving the site of Salisbury's cathedral, and his younger brother, Richard, helped among other significant developments to realize that vision. The younger Poore is also known as one of the great pastoral reformers in England following the Fourth Lateran Council. The episcopal acta for this period are enough for two volumes: this one under review begins with Osmund's pontificate in 1078 and ends with Herbert Poore's in 1217; the second volume, also edited by Kemp, is devoted to the acta of Richard Poore.
The contents are predictably and richly varied; chief among them are documents recording institutions to parochial benefices, church appropriations, the protection of the rights of local churches, especially against collegiate or religious corporations and, above all, the fiscal and religious life of the cathedral. We see the beginnings of a prebendal system for the cathedral canons, the development of cathedral dignities, and the organization of endowments to support them as well as certain religious and liturgical customs in Salisbury such as the cathedral's Lady Mass. Records such as these offer much to the historian of the medieval English church, but they also represent crucial changes in the organization, personnel, scribal activities, and record keeping of episcopal chanceries. Kemp provides exemplary and beautifully reproduced images illustrating developments in the hands and stylistic forms of the acta; these are accompanied by images of the bishops' seals typically attached to the documents. This is a superb presentation of the Saisbury acta, aided much by a rich and inclusive introduction that serves to contextualize documents that, alone, might seem to provide interesting but merely incidental information. This is followed by a careful and exhaustive treatment of each actum with summaries, detailed annotations, cross-references, and bibliographies.
Santa Clara University