I have blogged time and time and time again about the “forthcoming” publication of the Susan Kelly-edited Charters of Chertsey Abbey. Each time I have done so, the inexorable passage of time has meant its publication date is a little nearer but all the same I’ve never known for certain so much as the year in which it will appear. No longer. The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon (maybe other sites too – I haven’t checked but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t), which of course I did immediately, and was duly informed that dispatch/delivery will take place in early October 2013. Because my excitement about this discovery and the work in question knows no bounds, I’m going to reproduce the book description in its entirety:
“This is the first complete modern edition of the early charters of Chertsey Abbey in Surrey, one of the most important of the English medieval monasteries, and one which appears to have had a nearly continuous existence from its seventh-century foundation until it was surrendered to Henry VIII’s commissioners in 1537.
“The pre-Conquest archive is fairly small and has a poor reputation; indeed, the majority of the sixteen extant charters are obvious fabrications (which have their own importance in throwing light on the later medieval history of the house). But the archive does contain ancient documents of enormous interest: a charter which has claims to be the earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon diploma; a seventh-century episcopal charter; a diploma of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’ which adds to the evidence about the development of London around the year 1000; and an authentic writ of Edward the Confessor, again referring to London.
“In this volume all the extant diplomas are expertly edited, with extensive commentaries on their content and implications. A thorough introduction comprises a new synthesis of Chertsey’s early history, discussion of the history of the archive and of the later medieval background to the fabrication of the purportedly early documents, and painstaking analysis of the history of the landed endowment. This volume also includes editions of four papal privileges said to have been obtained on the monastery’s behalf in the Anglo-Saxon period, of which two or perhaps three are genuine or have a genuine basis.”
I don’t think the importance of this book to medieval studies in Surrey can be overstated (well, save for comments of the bigger-than-Jesus ilk). Certainly, I have two or three part-completed pieces that are in a holding pattern awaiting the insights I hope, indeed expect, will derive from Kelly’s study. Chertsey was one of the biggest landholders in the medieval county, as well as its foremost “native” ecclesiastical institution. What is more, its early charters – authentic or otherwise – shed more light on pre-Conquest Surrey than any other documentary source aside from Domesday Book, as can be seen in my recent work on early medieval numismatics. To judge from Kelly’s previous editions in the Anglo-Saxon Charters series (most recently for Glastonbury, which I dropped a wad of cash on a couple of weeks back – fortunately, it has proved to be more than worth the cost) it will be a work of the utmost thoroughness and will act as the basis for much future research on Anglo-Saxon Surrey and monasteries for decades hence. The prospect of owning a copy at long last is almost enough to make me wish away the summer, but not quite. For one thing, I have the two-volume Charters of Christ Church Canterbury dropping through my letterbox at some point in the first week of July. Now that will be a real summer blockbuster…