Rolls Series

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First page of the Preamble to the Rolls Series 1857

The Rolls Series (The Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages, Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores) is a series of editions of medieval chronicles from Great Britain and Ireland published between 1858 and 1911. A total of 99 works in 253 volumes have been published. Almost all of the great medieval English chronicles were included. Most of the existing editions were from the 17th and 18th centuries and were considered insufficient. The scope has also been extended to include legendary, folkloric and hagiographic materials, as well as archival documents and legal acts. The series was funded by the government and takes its unofficial name from the fact that its volumes were published "by the authority of Her Majesty's Treasury Department, under the direction of the Masters of the Rolls, " who is the official keeper of the records of the Registry Court and other courts and was the nominal head of the State Archives.

The project

The publication of the series was carried out by the British government according to a scheme presented in 1857 to the then Master of the Rolls Sir John Romilly . A similar preliminary project, the Monumenta Historica Britannica , had failed after the publication of the first volume (1036 folio pages, London, 1848). The editor-in-chief, Henry Petrie , had died and the project's layout was perceived as inadequate. Proposals for a new project were made by Joseph Stevenson , and the 1857 scheme was the direct result of that call. In addition to Romilly and Stevenson, Thomas Duffus Hardy , who was Deputy Keeper of Public Records from 1861 to 1878, was another key figure who helped determine the direction of the project in its early years. The first two volumes were published in February 1858: it was the first volume of Stevenson's own edition of the Historia Ecclesie Abbendonensis , a 12th-century chronicle written in Abingdon Abbey (the second and final volume appeared a few months later); and FC Hingeston's 15th century edition of John Capgrave's Historia de Illustribus Henricis . Hingeston's work was flawed and the reviews were poor. Other editors included William Stubbs , who edited 18 volumes, Henry Richards Luard, who edited 17 volumes, and HT Riley, who edited 15 volumes.

The standards were sometimes high, but largely left to the respective editors with little overall supervision, so that weak editions also appeared. The publishers were paid very well by the Public Record Office (Stubbs received around £ 6,600 in total). Initially, the aim was a circulation of 1500, but then it leveled off at around 750. In general, however, only around 200 copies were sold, so that William Hardy gave surplus copies to public and university libraries in the 1880s (with the addition that the copy was to be returned when the library was abandoned).

Under Henry Maxwell Lyte (1848-1940), who was Deputy Keeper of the Public Record Office from 1886 to 1926, the project was scaled back. Lyte was dissatisfied with the level of work and thought the editors were overpaid. Hardly any new publishing projects were started. In 1897 the Red Book of the Exchequer appeared in three volumes, a legal collection from the 13th century. The editors Hubert Hall and JH Round fell out, however, and a violent feud broke out when Round, who had retired from the editorial office, downgraded the quality of Hall's work. The last work to be commissioned was the 1305 Memoranda de Parliamento (Memoranda de Parliamento) published in 1893 by FW Maitland. The last volume was published in 1911, the last volume of the yearbook of Edward III for the years 1346/47, edited by LO Pike.

Reprints of many volumes were published by Kraus Reprints in New York.

The volumes in the series were not given any official volume numbers (except as partial volumes of the associated work), but the numbering from volumes 1 to 99 of the HMSO Sectional List 24 of the British National Archives is often used.


  • M. David Knowles: Presidential Address: Great Historical Enterprises IV: The Rolls Series , Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., Vol. 11, 1961, pp. 137-159. DOI: 10.2307 / 3678755 .

Web links

Wikisource: Rolls Series  - Sources and Full Texts