As a result of the fact that my MA dissertation research is aimed at analysing the published chirographs which are housed in Westminster Abbey Muniments Room, I know this volume better than some members of my own family (and certainly like it better than some of them!). This volume, which is a calendar of the previously unpublished Latin documents in the Westminster Abbey Muniments Room is a truly wonderful volume which has facilitated my analysis thus far, and undoubtedly will continue to do so. In addition to the English calendar of documents, there is a wonderful introduction at the beginning of the volume which outlines that history and nature of these documents. However, the archival history does not go past 1303 which is a somewhat irritating attribute of the introduction given that as a result of my own research I have discovered that it is possible to reconstruct a remarkably detailed archival history of these documents. In terms of the documents themselves, this is an incredibly diverse collection which helps one to understand how central the archae were to Jewish life in medieval England and the level of detail in which the State administered medieval Anglo-Jewry.
My one major problem with this volume is that it is only a calendar of the documents, rather than full transcriptions / translations of the documents. While I acknowledge that such a volume would be highly repetitive and detailed, I have to say that I think that it would be a compromise that is worth taking, given the value of the transcriptions of the Norwich documents which Vivian Lipman included in his monograph study of the Norwich Jewry (Lipman: 1967, pp. 187-312). Moreover, full transcriptions of the documents are the method adopted in the two most recent published editions of the Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews (Cohen: 1992; Brand: 2005). As a result, I cannot help but thinking that this little collection was published in totally the wrong format or, at the very least, that it should be viewed as an intermediary collection. This is because, in the age of digitisation surely the best step to take would be to make the documents accessible in both the original format and with translations in something similar to the Fine Rolls of Henry III Project which was such a success and is an amazing resource (http://www.finerollshenry3.org.uk/index.html) – indeed, I would also like to see the Latin documents from places like Canterbury Cathedral made similarly available.
Brand, Paul (ed.), Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews preserved in The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office), Volume VI Edward I, 1279-1281 (London, 2005).
Cohen, Sarah, (ed.), Plea Rolls of the Exchequer of the Jews preserved in the Public Record Office, Volume V Edward I, 1277-1279 (London, 1992).
Lipman, V. D., The Jews of Medieval Norwich (London, 1967).
‘Fine Rolls of Henry III Project’, available online at http://www.finerollshenry3.org.uk/index.html accessed on 2 Apr. 16.