Malmesbury Abbey was one of the few English minsters which had a continuous existence from the seventh to the sixteenth century, and the Malmesbury archive is a particularly important witness to the history of Wessex and the West Saxon church in the pre-Viking period. More than half of the surviving charters purport to date from the seventh and eighth centuries, many of them directly associated with Malmesbury's most celebrated abbot, the scholar and poet Aldhelm. This volume is the first scholarly edition of Malmesbury's pre-Conquest charters.
The Malmesbury archive poses a particularly difficult editorial challenge, since the manuscripts are generally late and the abbey's scribes were prone to forgery and the 'improvement' of their muniments. Although the abbey had its own celebrated post-Conquest historian in William of Malmesbury, regrettably little detailed information has survived about the early history of the monastery. Nevertheless, analysis of the charters has made it possible to build up a fairly coherent picture of Malmesbury's development in the first four centuries of its existence. This volume provides an important background to William of Malmesbury's De gestis pontificorum Anglorum, and includes significant new material for the study of William's use of historical documents.
Charters of Malmesbury Abbey is comprised of editions of thirty-five charters and also a small group of separate boundary surveys, with expert detailed commentaries on their historical and topographical importance. The charters are prefaced by a lengthy introduction which presents a new synthesis of the history of the abbey and an extensive bibliography.