Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 July 2018
On 29 March 1208, Richard Marsh, clerk of the king's chamber, gave his authorization for a writ to be issued to the abbot of Reading in the following form:
Rex Abbati de Rading’ etc. Sciatis quod Vigilia Pasch’ Florid’ apud Audingeburn anno regni nostri ix recepimus per manus Gervasii sacriste de Rading’ sex libros bibliotece in quibus continetur omne Vetus testementum. Recipimus etiam primam partem bibliotece et Sacramenta magistri Hugonis de Sancto Victore et Sententias Petri Lombardi, Epistolas Augustini, [Augustinus] de Civitate Dei, Augistinus super tertiam partem Salterii, Librum Valeriani de moribus, Tractatum Origenis super Vetus testementum, Librum Candidi Ariani ad Marium. Et ideo vobis mandamus quod vos et ipse inde sitis quieti. Teste me ipso apud Audingb’ xxix die Marc’, per R[icardum] de Marisco.
The king to the abbot of Reading, etc. Know that on the Vigil of Palm Sunday in the ninth year of our reign at Aldingbourne (Sussex) we received by the hand of Gervase sacrist of Reading six books of the Bible which contained all the Old Testament. We have also received the first part of the Bible and The Sacraments by Master Hugh of Saint-Victor and The Sentences of Peter Lombard, the Letters of Augustine, [Augustine] The City of God, Augustine on the third part of the Psalter, the book of Valerius Memorable Doings, the tract of Origen on the Old Testament, the book of Candidus the Arian to Marius. And we therefore command you that you and he are thence quit. Witness myself at Aldingbourne on 29 day of March, per Richard Marsh.
We have known about this writ since at least the 1830s, when the Close Rolls of John's reign were brought into print by the Record Commission, yet scholars, when they have referred to this list, have shied away from giving it close attention. Susan Cavanaugh writing in The Library in 1988 about royal books noticed that ‘John borrowed six books from the abbot of Reading. These were all theological texts and belonged to Reading Abbey’. For an article on royal books, this was a scant thing to say (there are nine books in fourteen volumes). But Cavanaugh is in good company.