Duhaime's LawGallery - The Law In Pictures


Textus Roffensis, 1124 (Britain)

  • Object type: Document
  • Formal Title: Textus Roffensis, 1124 (Britain), Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum Episcopum
  • Creator: unknown
  • Date Created: 1124
  • Origin: The Episcopate of Ernulf of Bec, England
  • Current Location: Medway Council, England

What a storied document!

Not only is this precious hand-written document, on about 235 vellum leaves, an essential source of early English law and custom, but few books have endured and survived the travails of this one.

It has been rebound many times and has even survived a swim in the Thames. The official records show that until the 1900s, this priceless artifact of British history was borrowed many times, as any library book, and often on payment of some kind of security. On one occasion legal action was required to retrieve the book from a doctor who had unknowingly bought it from an inn keeper.

Many of the borrowers added annotations in the margins.

The document is held and beautifully photographed in 2004, said photographs available at the website for the archives of the Medway Council. These modern custodians describe Textus Roffensis as:

"The compilation represents the first documentary evidence of the compromises made between the new Norman rulers and their indigenous English subjects, hinting at a convergence rather than a collision between the English language and English laws on the one hand and Romance laws and language on the other."

The Textus Roffensis recorded many ancient laws such as those of Wihtred and Alfred the Great, as best they could be rembered by the locals, and otherwise in great danger of being lost to history forever.

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