When necessary it was permissible to speak in a low voice in the ear. But among the Cluniacs whispering was avoided as far as possible. Watch the monks communicating with the librarian. One wants a Missal, and he pretends, as the children say, to turn over leaves, thereby making the general sign for a book; then he makes the sign of the Cross to indicate that he wants a Missal book. Another wants the Gospels, and he makes the sign of the Cross on the forehead.
This brother wants a pagan book, and, after making the general sign, he scratches his ear with his finger as an itching dog would with his feet; infidel writers were not unfairly compared with such creatures. But probably if this rule was observed at all—and we do not think it likely—the signs were used only for church books, and most often in church.
In nearly every monastery the rule of silence was made. For notes, exercises, brief letters, bills, first drafts, daily services of the church, the names of officiating brethren,—for all temporary purposes waxed tablets were used. They were in common use from classic times: some Greek and many Latin tablets are still preserved;  they were much used in ancient Ireland, as we have seen; and they continued to be of service until the late Middle Ages.
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Anselm habitually wrote his first drafts upon them. At St. In early monastic days it was prepared by the monks themselves, being rubbed smooth with pumice-stone; later it was bought from manufacturers ready-made. It was not so expensive as vellum: the average price being two shillings per dozen skins as compared with eight shillings per dozen skins of vellum.
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For a Bible presented to Bury St. Edmunds Abbey, finest Irish or Scottish vellum was procured c. This manuscript is now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The pens used for writing were either made of reeds calami or of quills pennae. The quill was introduced after the reed, and largely, though not entirely, superseded it. Other implements of the expert scribe were a pencil, compasses, scissors, an awl, a knife for erasures, a ruler, and a weight to keep down the vellum.
Numerous passages might be dug out of old records warning scribes against errors in transcribing. But, as a rule, monkish scribes were exceedingly careful, and their work was invariably corrected by another hand. More than this: they endeavoured to get accurate texts to copy. Before work could be started in the writing-room, books for copying had to be obtained.
Usually a few books were bought or borrowed; then several copies were made of each, the superfluous volumes being sold or exchanged for fresh manuscripts to transcribe. Benedict Biscop, as we have seen, obtained his books from Rome and Vienne. Cuthwin, bishop of the East Angles c. Edmunds in exchange for a MS. Gregory, and Rabanus Maurus. Among the gifts were two service books in English, and the famous Codex Vercellensis, which is only less valuable than the Exeter Book as a first source of Anglo-Saxon poetry.
The Vercelli Book is in Italy to this day. In some abbeys the purchase of books, and the copying of them for sale, became just as much a business as the manufacture of Chartreuse. In Exeter College, Oxford, paid ten shillings and a penny for twelve quires and two skins of parchment bought at Abingdon to send to the monastery of Plympton in Devonshire, where a book was being written for the College. Lupus, in particular, betrays the commercial spirit by refusing to give more than he was obliged in return for what he received.
He will not send a book to a monk at Sens because his messenger must go afoot and the way was perilous: let us hope he thought more of the messenger than of the manuscript. On another occasion he refuses to lend a book because it is too large to be hidden in the vest or wallet, and, besides, its beauty might tempt robbers to steal it. These were good excuses to cover his general unwillingness to lend.
As a rule the expenses of the writing-room formed a part of the general expenses of the house, but sometimes particular portions of the monastic income and endowments were available to meet them. To St. Albans certain tithes were assigned by a Norman leader for making books c. Edmunds, and of Whitby, received tithes and rents for a like purpose. In some houses a rate was levied for the support of the scriptorium, but we have not met with any instance of this practice in English monasteries.
At Corbie, in Picardy, a rate was levied to pay the salary of the librarian, and to cover part of the cost of bookbinding. Here also each novice, on the day of his profession, had to present a book to the library; at Corvey, in Northern Germany, the same rule was observed at the end of the eleventh century. As all the monasteries of an order were conducted much on the same lines, it is difficult to believe that similar rates were not levied by some of the larger houses in England. The libraries were also augmented by gifts and bequests, as well as by purchase and by transcription in the scriptorium.
In most abbeys it was customary for the brethren to give or bequeath their books to their house. A long list of such benefactors to Ramsey Abbey is extant, and one of the brothers, Walter de Lilleford, prior of St. Ives, gave what was in those days a considerable library in itself.
James has indexed nearly two hundred donors to Christ Church alone. In most cases the gifts are of one or a few books, but occasionally collections of respectable size were received, as when T. As many or more donors to St. Here also some of the donations were fairly large: for example, Henry Belham and Henry Cokeryng gave nineteen books each, a prior twenty-seven, a certain John of London eighty-two, J. Preston twenty-three, a certain Abbot Thomas over a hundred, and T. Wyvelesberghe thirty-one.
Some sixty persons are also indexed as donors to St. William de Carilef, bishop of Durham, endowed his church with books and bequeathed some more at his death John, bishop of Bath, bequeathed to the abbey church his whole library and his decorated copies of the Gospels Another bishop of Durham, Hugh Pudsey, bequeathed many books to his church Thomas de Marleberge d.
Some miniatures in early manuscripts give us a good idea of the way books were stored in the Middle Ages.
They are shown lying flat on sloping shelves which extend part-way round the room. Curtains are occasionally shown hanging in front of the shelves to protect the books from dust. Or a sloping shelf was fitted to serve as a readingdesk, and a second flat shelf ran beneath it to take books lying on their sides one above the other.
In several miniatures lecterns of very curious design are often depicted; some of them stood on a cupboard or cupboards wherein books were stowed away. In the monasteries books were stored in various places,—in chests, cupboards, or recesses in the wall. When the collection was small, a chest served; a receptacle of this kind is illustrated at p.
Cassiodorus had the books of his monastery stored in presses, or armaria. The manuscripts of Abbot Simon of St. It was divided vertically and horizontally by shelves in such a way that it was possible to arrange the books separately one from another, and so to avoid injury from close packing, and delay in consulting them. Two classes of books were in the cancellary: one stored in a large closet with folding doors, called an armariolum, and used by all the monks; the other kept in an inner room, and apparently reserved for special uses.
The books assigned to the reader in the refectory were stored by the doorway leading to the infirmary, and not in the refectory itself, as we should expect: maybe this arrangement was exceptional, and was adopted for special reasons of convenience. Probably two places were reserved for books in the cloister. One case or chest contained the books of the novices, whose place of study was in that part of the cloister facing the treasury. The main store was on the north side of the cloister. Clark, the leading authority on early library fittings, has tried to show, from evidences of a similar arrangement at Westminster, that this part of the cloister formed a long room, with glazed windows and carrells on the one hand, bookcases on the other, and screens at each end shutting off the library and writing-place from the rest of the cloister.
Along the south wall of the cloister at Chester is a series of recesses which are believed to have been used for bookcases. These recesses are shown on the plan here reproduced; so also is the common aumbry in the wall of the south transept. In large continental houses a bookroom was sometimes needed very early. Gall, a special bookroom was planned, if not actually built, as early as the ninth century.
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According to the old drawing still preserved at St. Gall, this room was to be on the north side of the presbytery, symmetrically with the sacristy on the south side. It was in two stories. The ground floor was to be arranged as a writing-room,— infra sedes scribentium ,—the furniture being a large table in the centre, and seven writing-desks against the walls. The upper story was the library.
The plan just given shows the position of this room between the church and the chapter-house, and not far from the common claustral aumbry. On each side of the massive arch of the Chapter House at Furness Abbey is a similar arch leading to a small square room, most likely used for books. The illustrations facing this show the position of these rooms on either side of the Chapter House doorway.
An extant catalogue of another Cistercian house, that of Meaux in Yorkshire, clearly indicates the whereabouts of the conventual books. Some church books were before the great altar, others were in the choir, a few in the infirmary chapel, and in the common press and other presses of the church. The bulk of them was in the common aumbry, not apparently in the open cloister, but in a room off the cloister.
At the Premonstratensian Abbey of Titchfield the books were stored in a small room, in four cases, each having eight shelves. The Distinctions would be narrow vertical divisions of these, and each of them would have its numerous subdivisions into Gradus. It would thus be no place for study, such as the later libraries were, but merely a storeroom whence books were fetched to be read at leisure in the cloister.
This was the room which Prior Selling fitted up with wainscot, and put books in for the benefit of the studious. At Gloucester a special room was built, probably in the fourteenth century. Durham apparently did without a room until early in the fifteenth century. Edmunds,  and St. Albans also had special bookrooms. For the safe keeping of the conventual books the precentor was responsible. To provide coverings for the books; to see that they were marked with their proper titles; to arrange them on the shelves in suitable order, so that they might be quickly found, were all duties within his province.