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The Catholic Historical Review 89.2 (2003) 294-295
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The Register of Walter Bronescombe, Bishop of Exeter, 1258-1280, Volume Two. Edited and translated by O. F. Robinson. [The Canterbury and York Society, Volume LXXXVII.] (Rochester, New York: The Boydell Press. 1999. Pp.viii, 138. $45.00.)
This is the second of a three-volume edition and translation of Walter Bronescombe's episcopal register. The first volume appeared in 1995, and the third, which will include among other documents the Exeter Cathedral Statutes of 1269 and 1278, is scheduled to appear soon. This second volume concludes the register proper, its entries running from 1263, where Volume One leaves off, to the day of the bishop's death, July 22, 1280. As was often the case in earlier episcopal registers, Bronescombe's followed a chronological rather than a topical form. Thus, records for the management of ecclesiastical benefices—by and large the better portion of most episcopal registers—appear in the midst of [End Page 294] other matters that occupied the bishop and his chief assistants: copies of royal letters, memoranda of various commissions, the business of ecclesiastical courts, citations for anticipated ordinations and visitations, the concerns of religious houses, relations with the Exeter Cathedral Chapter, etc. The substance of these entries is vital for understanding the episcopal administration and pastoral care of the diocese, vital as well for understanding the man whose actions were the point of the record. In spite of the strong tendency toward the formulaic, something of Bronescombe's manner emerges along with the more objective features of his administration. He was a man at ease with his authority, whether engaged in the rule of his diocese or on business for the king or archbishop. A capable administrator, he was also a reform-minded prelate who had little patience with beneficed clerics who lingered on their way to priest's orders (#1200); showed similar contempt for pluralists (#1124); suffered through long rows with mischievous abbots at Tavistock and Ford (#773, 1089); and was not above a stern and pastoral rebuke to the Roman Curia for passing on to him a pair of incompetent and illiterate brothers for ordination (#966).
The contents of this register were edited over a century ago by F. C. Hingeston-Randolf, but that version had its burden of flaws. O. F. Robinson has taken up the task of editing, transcribing, and translating the register anew. This latter feature, of course, makes the whole of the register far more accessible to students of medieval Exeter and the thirteenth-century church, and Robinson is owed a debt of thanks for this. But this may be outweighed in value by an editorial oddity that Robinson notes but does not explain: where Volume One was a facing-page text and translation of the first half of the register, this present volume is a straightforward translation with occasional references to the original text. The more important entries will appear in Latin in the final volume, removed from the context of their English translations and leaving the whole project with a somewhat cobbled look. Robinson's translations are in the main commendable for their faithfulness to the original text, but occasional errors in form threaten to undermine confidence: "latters patent" (#1175), intrusive or missing words (p. vi, #1188), Agnes de Crues (#1126) and Agnes de Cruyws (#1177) are the same person, and one entry (#845) is rendered entirely in lower case without benefit of explanation.
William J. Dohar
Santa Clara University