Gerefa is a literary work, possibly with a Roman inspiration, on the status of the reeve. It survives in a single twelfth-century manuscript and its transmission is closely related to that of Rectitudines singularum personarum.

It was translated into Latin c. 1100: see Quadripartitus

Digital edition

Edited by Thom Gobbitt



by Thom Gobbitt


Rectitudines Singularum Personarum (henceforth RSP) and Gerefa is a complex and multi-faceted text as it comprises two originally separate items redacted together into a single piece: RSP being a manual to guide the administration of a late Anglo-Saxon estate and the only systematic record of the obligations and perquisites of its various tenants and workers written prior to the Norman Conquest, and Gerefa being a literary discussion of the duties of an estate overseer in the style of a colloquy (Harvey, 1993: 1). The two texts differ notably in style and content, with RSP being a closely focused and practical summary of the duties owed from and/or perquisites owed to various workers on the estate – with the notable exception of the Gerefa, the reeve or overseer. As Patrick Wormald observes, while RSP and Gerefa are one of the best known of the ‘unofficial’ (that is non-royal) legal and regulatory texts, the content is ‘barely legal’ at all and it should not be assumed that the text had any legal force, even though all the surviving copies are in legal collections (Wormald, 1999: 387). To avoid confusion, RSP and Gerefa will be referred to as a ‘collection’ due to the various customs and regulations collected within it. The text(s) have been referred to copiously in scholarship on the late Anglo-Saxon economy, although the fullest and most convincing analysis of the collection itself is that of P. D. A. Harvey (Harvey, 1993), which forms the basis of much of the discussion of the text outlined here. While Latin translations of RSP (without the Gerefa tract) are included in five of the eleven manuscript copies of the Quadripartitus, dating from the mid-twelfth century to the sixteenth century, the Old English version of the text survives only in a single manuscript witness from the turn of the twelfth-century (Liebermann, 1903; Harvey, 1993: 1-2). A small number of variations can be seen between the Latin translation of RSP and the Old English, most notably the omission of the Gerefa tract and additional or differing words and sub-sections in some of the clauses.

The Manuscript

The only manuscript witness of the Old English version of RSP and Gerefa is Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 383 (henceforth CCCC 383). The manuscript has been described on a number of occasions in the scholarship, including Felix Liebermann’s Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen where it is catalogued as manuscript B (Liebermann, 1903: I, xix); in M. R. James’ A Descriptive Catalogue of The Manuscripts in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge as 383 (James, 1912: ii, 230-31); Neil Ker’s Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon as no. 65 (Ker, 1990: 110-13), by Peter Lucas in the Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts in Microfiche Facsimile series as no. 55 (Lucas, 2003: 74-80), and most recently by Thomas Gobbitt as CCCC 383 on the Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060 to 1220 project (Gobbitt, 2010a).

CCCC 383 was first produced at the turn of the twelfth century, possibly at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London and comprises a collection of Anglo-Saxon law-codes and related texts, sometimes described as a ‘legal encyclopaedia’ copied throughout by a single hand in an easily legible Late Vernacular Minuscule script (Wormald, 1999: 228-36; Lucas, 2003, 74-80; Gobbitt, 2010a). A second hand added two further Old English items onto the final folio and a small number of emendations throughout the manuscript, early in the second quarter of the twelfth century, and a third hand added rubrics, emendations and annotations, all in Old English, at some point in the first half of the twelfth-century. Other items in Anglo-Norman and Latin have been added in the margins and blank line space, from the thirteenth century onwards, in particular a number of sixteenth-century comments and additions, including pagination in Archbishop Parker’s distinctive red crayon (Wormald, 1999: 228-36; Lucas, 2003, 74-80; Gobbitt, 2010a).

In its current form the manuscript comprises seven of the original early twelfth-century quires interspersed with two sixteenth-century quires. From missing and disordered portions of the law-codes and related texts, it can be deduced that at least two quires, possibly more, are no longer extant and that what is now the first quire should originally have followed the third. With the exception of the first quire, which was produced with six folios, the other six early twelfth-century quires each have eight folios apiece, although one folio from the second quire was lost before Parker paginated the manuscript. In total, therefore, the manuscript is foliated as: iii flyleaves, ix + 21 + vii + 32 + ii flyleaves, with the twelfth-century quires represented with Arabic numerals and later additions with Roman numerals. The manuscript is relatively small and portable with each folio being approximately 116 mm wide by approximately 186 mm high. Most of the folios have been trimmed, with the exception of those from the final quire; although as a sixteenth-century marginal addition on fol. 53r has also been truncated, the trimming represents antiquarian rather than medieval use of the manuscript. Indeed, there is no codicological evidence that the manuscript was bound in the half-century following its initial production, and it probably remained as a series of unbound quires until it was assembled as a book in the sixteenth century (Gobbitt, 2009: 9-14).The current binding is white, alum-tawed pigskin and was undertaken in 1991 (Lucas, 2003: 75).


RSP and Gerefa, being the last two items copied in the manuscript by the main hand, can be found in the final quire of CCCC 383, running from fol. 63v, l. 1 to its conclusion on fol. 69r, l. 14. The mise-en-page of the RSP and Gerefa tract is to all extents and purposes identical to that used throughout the manuscript by the main hand, and comprises a single column text-block with twenty-six horizontal lines and single vertical bounding lines. All of the lines are in hard-point, and the first, third, antepenultimate and final horizontal lines and both vertical lines extend to the edges of the folio. As noted above, the hand employs a Late Vernacular Minuscule script written in a dark brown-black ink, with rounded bowls, wedge-shaped or notched ascenders, serifs on the feet of minims and descenders ending either in pen-flick or a tapering point curved slightly to the left.


A steadily increasing orthographic preference for ð over þ and caroline s over insular s or round s can be seen in the items copied by the main scribe throughout the manuscript. By RSP and Gerefa at the end of the manuscript these patterns of orthographic preference are almost absolute, emphasising the way that the main scribe was homogenising the variant mises-en-page of a number of law-codes and exemplars into a single, unified form (Gobbitt, 2012).That the scribe was normalising the orthographic choice displayed in his or her exemplars for the manuscript is further indicated by the copying error on fol. 64r, l. 2 where, presumably, the wynn ƿ in the exemplar’s ‘ðeaƿ’ was mistaken for a þ and then normalised by the main scribe of CCCC 383 into ð to produce ‘ðeað’ (RSP and Gerefa 3). Where the rest of CCCC 383 has been heavily amended and annotated, the copy of RSPand Gerefa and the rest of the final quire remain relatively untouched: with the notable exception of the two additional items added onto the final folio (fol. 69r, l. 15 to fol. 69v, l. 26).


The Old English copy of RSP and Gerefa in CCCC 383, however, did not receive many additions and emendations subsequent to its initial production, with the exception of an ð being emended to a g in clause 15 (fol. 66r, l. 5) and the rubrics added at some point later in the first half of the twelfth-century. This may be taken to mean that the text was not much used following its initial production, or that the form it was copied in was deemed acceptable enough not to require emendation. The latter seems likely as there are increasingly fewer emendations made to any of the texts throughout the latter quires of CCCC 383, and if Wormald’s comment that the manuscript was copied by somebody ‘not competent to do so’ (Wormald, 1999: 236) holds any weight, then it must be assumed that the scribe’s accuracy and ability improved with practice (Gobbitt, 2012).


The manuscript has been described as ‘plain’ (Richards, 1986: 181), and decoration comprises red pen-work initials, usually of one to two lines height, indented into the opening two lines of each paragraph or text-block item. Red rubrics have been added throughout the manuscript introducing many of the law-codes and sub-divisions thereof. As mentioned previously, the rubrics were added at some point slightly later into the first half of the twelfth-century, and it should be observed that under ultra-violet light the ink appears to be different from that used for the pen-drawn initials (Gobbitt, 2010a; Gobbitt, 2010b: 131; Gobbitt, 2011). In the RSP part of the collection almost every paragraph-style division of the text-block is rubricated with only two exceptions, RSP andGerefa 5, a summary of how the laws so far outlined vary from area to area, and RSP and Gerefa21 which forms another summary of the diversity of laws across estates. Conversely, and despite the Gerefa part of the collection being divided into ten paragraph-style subsections, only the very beginning of the Gerefa tract is rubricated. Stepping back from which sections have not been rubricated and looking instead at which sections have been, the rubricator’s intention appears to have been only to mark each occupation as it was newly mentioned. The one exception to this pattern is the discussion of the Hæigwerd or ‘hedge-ward’, although the lack of rubric here can perhaps be explained as this section does not begin with a new paragraph and red pen-drawn initial, but continues directly on from the Wuduweard, or ‘forester’ in RSP and Gerefa 20, fol. 66r, l. 24. The association of these occupations under a single heading possibly reflects the similarities between the two, in that both occupations are as guardians of property.


The Text

Liebermann, who was responsible for bringing Gerefa to the awareness of scholars in the nineteenth century, edited RSP and Gerefa as independent pieces but became increasingly convinced in his analysis that they comprised a single item, so that by the time he published the third volume of his Gesetze he included the two under a single heading (Harvey, 1993: 4; Liebermann, 1886; Liebermann, 1916: 244-55). The suggestion that the two pieces were deliberately combined into a single piece by the time they were copied into CCCC 383 has received almost total acceptance in the scholarship, although R. I Page is a notable exception as he asserts that the relationship is at best unclear, and that as the manuscript was compiled from a number of exemplars, and with little attention given to the division between the two parts, there is no compelling reason to link the two pieces so closely. Page further suggests that ‘good philological, historical and archaeological reasons’ exist for treating the two pieces as separate, but, as has been lamented by various scholars, he makes no mention of what these might be (Page, 1985: 213-14; Harvey, 1993: 7; Wormald, 1999: 388).


In the Old English version where RSP and Gerefa have been redacted together, the Gerefa tract supplies the information on the reeve that RSP was otherwise lacking. The reworking of the pair by their redactor, so that phrases in one are repeated in the other, underlines the continuity that was produced through their unification. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Liebermann identified two grammatical layers: the initial composition of the collection(s) in the early eleventh century and an updating of the language and orthography in the second half of the eleventh century (Liebermann, 1916: 244-45; Harvey, 1993: 4).


Gerefa, however is primarily a literary rather than practical piece based on a possible classical model and with emphasis given to alliterative and rhythmical form and philosophical musings (Wormald, 1999: 389; Harvey, 1993: 9-11). As such, Gerefa contrasts with the technical tone and close administrative focus of RSP. Harvey has argued that the earliest version of RSP was even more tightly focused than it is now, as it appears to have been a description of the exact duties and rewards of workers on a specific estate, likely an ecclesiastical holding and possibly that of St. Pater’s Abbey, Bath (Liebermann, 1903: 444; Harvey, 1993: 19; Wormald, 1999: 389). It was only through subsequent emendation and updating in the early eleventh century that Gerefa became a more general commentary. Gerefa, on the other hand appears to date to the late tenth or early eleventh century on the basis of its literary style and cultural and scholastic focus as well as the instruction to build mills (clause 24) (Harvey, 1993: 11). The possibility that Gerefa was deliberately composed to fill the gap in RSP is very unlikely due to the distinct differences in literary styles between the two pieces, and it has been argued instead that a recently composed colloquy on the duties of the wise reeve was incorporated into the revised piece (Harvey, 1993: 12).


In total Harvey identifies three definite phases and a possible fourth in the production and emendation of the text to produce the exemplar that the version in CCCC 383 was copied from. The less certain phase follows the initial composition of RSP, in which Harvey argues that an interpolator at a second estate added at least one comment in the first person plural, in which he (or she) identified differences between the customs outlined for the estate the text had been written first for and his or her own. The sole example of this in the text is in clause 6 (fol. 65r, l. 1) in which the customary gafol, or tax, of the beekeeper is described as being five sesters of honey ‘with us’. Throughout RSP, however a number of generalising comments are made about how customs may be diverse and vary between different estates. Harvey suggests the possibility that these may have been first introduced as interpolations in the second person, and were updated and generalised early in the eleventh century at which point the sole-surviving example in clause 6 was accidentally omitted (Harvey, 1993:21-22). Certainly it would appear that the Quadripartitus compiler interpreted this as an omission, for the Latin translation removes the use of second person plural in favour of a more generalised ‘in quibisdam locis’, that is ‘in some places’, in the same clause (Harvey, 1993: 21-22; Lieberman, 1903). Other variations between the Old English and the Latin version are minimal, although Harvey notes the two versions do represent slightly different textual traditions (Harvey, 1993: 1) with the largest example being the inclusion of a separate sub-clause (Liebermann’s RSP 3.1) in clause 3 of the collection and outlining further duties of the ‘kotesetlar’, or ‘cottager’.


The generalising of the first person plural comments is the third phase that Harvey identifies in RSP, occurring at some point early in the eleventh century. This equates with the phase that Liebermann believed to be the initial composition of the text, and which Betherum believed to be the revision that redacted the original RSP and Gerefa into a single piece (Liebermann, 1916: 244-55; Betherum, 1963: 164; Harvey, 1993: 8). Betherum believed that the two texts were probably combined by Archbishop Wulfstan (died 28 May 1023) on the basis of the alliterative couplings, metrical forms and the strong interest in the careful ordering of society (Betherum, 1963: 162-70; Harvey, 1993: 5-6). Harvey generally accepted Betherum’s arguments for Wulfstan’s contribution to the piece, referring to the alterations as the ‘Wulfstanian revisions’ (Harvey, 1993: 21-22), although Wormald took a stronger and quite compelling stance against the argument (Wormald, 1999: 389). While RSPandGerefa certainly show an interest in the ordered running of society, Wulfstan’s normal stance opposes the abuse of the common person by corrupt or overbearing reeves, while RSP andGerefa instruct the opposite, admonishing the overseer to run the estate to his lord’s benefit. Wormald argues that RSP differs also in tone and vocabulary as well as in message, and suggests that the person who undertook the revisions was at best guided by Wulfstanian ideas, perhaps a colleague of the archbishop trained to think in a similar manner but unlikely to have been closer to him than that (Wormald, 1999: 389).


The fourth phase in the production, revision and emendation of RSP and Gerefa was an updating of the language that both Harvey and Liebermann dated to the latter decades of the eleventh century (Harvey, 1993; 4-7; Liebermann, 1916: 244-55). As this later end of this date range overlaps with the production of CCCC 383, the possibility stands that the main scribe (or somebody with supervisory control over his or her work) undertook these revisions as part of the production of the sole-surviving manuscript witness. Harvey, however, discounts this possibility on the basis that the main scribe of CCCC 383 does not appear elsewhere as anything other than a copyist (Harvey, 1993: 7). More recent analysis, however, has shown that the main scribe implemented a programme of orthographic updating and normalisation, with improving accuracy throughout the manuscript and deliberately but subtly homogenised the mise-en-page the texts were copied in (Gobbitt, 2011; Gobbitt, 2012) and the scribe cannot therefore be seen to be completely non-interventionist in his or her copying.


RSP andGerefa as it survives in CCCC 383 and the later Latin translations then is a complicated and multi-faceted discussion of the duties and perquisites of various occupants of a late Anglo-Saxon estate coupled with a literary colloquy on the knowledge and various obligations required of a good reeve. Close analysis can untangle some of the layers and phases of production and revision from the text, but to do so is to risk losing sight of the unified form presented in its redacted form. A practical discussion given from the perspective of a reeve working on a single (probably ecclesiastical) estate was thoughtfully expanded to include the omitted social ranks and occupations, and copious information on other duties and obligations. This included a set of comments – initially in the first person plural then turned into general statements – that shifted the focus of the tract from a single estate to two and from there to a wide-reaching and generally applicable discussion of a model estate. The two component texts together were not simply welded together, but were re-worked so that phrases echoed back and forth between the two, and so that the admonishing voice of the colloquy’s Gerefa resonated through the varied obligations and duties of the tenants and workers present on the estate under his supervision.


Commentary on the Text and Edition

The clauses of the collection can be divided into groups on the basis of textual similarities in content and focus, although no significant attention is drawn to these sub-divisions in the mise-en-page of the manuscript. RSP begins with a discussion of the duties and obligations of four different social ranks present on the estate, from thegn to peasant, then turns its attention to (tenant) beekeepers and both tenant and bound swineherds and from there to bound women and men. Seven occupations then follow, from the plough ‘follower’ in clause 11 through to the cheese-wright in clause 17; after these are four further occupations, the barley-keeper, beadle and the forester and hedge-warden in clauses 18 to 20, before the focus of the text moves on to the Gerefa part of the redacted collection with some general musings on the diversity of local customs in clause 21. The discussion of the general character and knowledge required of the reeve who would be deemed wise takes up the remainder of the collection, beginning in clause 22 and ending at clause 30.


The thegn whose duties are outlined in clause 1 of RSPandGerefa is not a king’s thegn, but instead a lesser thegn holding land under the lord of the estate in question (Betherum, 1963: 163). The clause begins with the three principle duties that all thegns must perform (levying of a company, the construction and maintenance of town walls and the same for bridges), before outlining a variety of additional, appropriate duties that the thegn may be required to undertake in accordance with royal command. These additional duties vary from place to place, and as the wording reads eacofmanegumlandum – ‘also on many estates’ – Betherum argued that none of these duties were in force on the estate from which the collection originated (Betherum, 1963: 163). However, as the earliest version of RSP constituted a closely focused survey of the services and goods that the reeve could call upon while administrating the estate itself, the duties of the thegn, being owed to the king and state, are arguably surplus to the requirements of the text as initially written (Harvey, 1993: 13). Harvey has argued, therefore, that the entire section on the thegn may have been added as part of the early eleventh-century revisions that turned the collection into a generalised discussion of a model estate. The sole use of the Scandinavian loan-word laga, for law, in RSPandGerefa also appears here, which would also date the clause (or at least its revision) to the early eleventh century or later (Harvey, 1993: 13; Wormald, 1999, 388).


The four social ranks present on the estate outlined at the beginning of the collection are ordered, as Harvey has observed, following the amount of services that the reeve can call on from least to most. After the thegn who owes no service to the estate, the order progresses from the geneat, or tenant (clause 2), who owes occasional services then to the kotesettlar, or cottager (clause 3), who owe more regular services and finally to the gebur, or peasant (clause 4), who have the highest quantity of obligations on the estate to fulfil (Harvey, 1993: 12). Not only the number of duties to be performed by each increase, but the amount of detail on these duties as well; in CCCC 383 the duties of the tenant take up eleven lines, those of the cottager fifteen lines and those of the peasant thirty-three lines. If the additional details for the cottager expanding on obligations for ploughing and during the harvest, as well as duties owed to the thegn’s administrator, now included in the Quadripartitus version of RSP, were omitted from CCCC 383 (or its exemplar) by accident then the differences in length of the three clauses would have been an even more regular progression. The additional Quadripartitus section (Liebermann’s clause “Rect. 3.1”), however, is grammatically complete and does not begin in the same manner as the part following, so it seems unlikely that it was omitted through eyeskip, and therefore represents a deliberate revision made at some point in the transmission of the variant versions of the text.


The duties of the different workers and the way they are presented in the collection are varied; the tenant’s few duties are given in a curt list while those of the cottager and the peasant are given in more detailed and discursive prose. Agricultural and economic duties obviously predominate in the text, although in the case of the cottager and peasant the initial outline of the amount of labour due from each is followed by more general examples of appropriate types of duty rather than specific details. The cottager is expected to work one day a week throughout the year or three days a week during the harvest, while the peasant is expected to work for two days a week throughout the year and three days during the harvest. In the case of the tenant it must be assumed that this choice does not reflect differences between estates added in the later revisions of the collection, but must reflect differences across a single estate so that appropriate numbers of workers are available throughout the year. Specific military and watch duties are only referred to for the tenant and cottager, with the tenant expected to watch over horses and undertake body guard duties (literally to hold heafod wearde, or ‘head-guard’ duties) on request, while the cottager is expected to watch over the lord’s land and over the coast if required. Each of the three ranks of workers owe both goods and services to the lord of the estate


Of the three workers, only the tenant pays gafol or ‘land tax’ and is expected to give alms, while cyric sceat, or church tribute is named for the tenant and the cottager and the heorð pænig, or ‘hearth penny’ is named only for the cottager and the peasant. From the inclusion of the variety of payments to be made in the list of duties, it can be inferred that it was the reeve’s obligation to ensure that monies owed by tenant, cottager and peasant were paid, whether owed to the lord or to the church. In this light, the inclusion of duties owed by the thegn to the king can be argued also to reflect on the duties of the reeve; the thegn was required to maintain the king’s animal hedge, the tenant was required to work on the king’s animal hedge. While it is possible that the thegn and tenant worked side by side, it would seem more likely that the thegn, through the administration of the reeve, simply supplied labour and tools and covered the costs. Similarly, when the thegn was required to levy a company as part of his three necessary duties to the king, it can be assumed that the reeve would have had the responsibility of actually mustering the people, particularly if decisions regarding who was free to fight and who was required to remain working on the estate needed to be made.


The discussion of the four social ranks is concluded with a generalised comment (clause 5) on the fact that customs vary from estate to estate – both in the nature of duties and the amount of labour required from each person – and with a summary of different types of food rent, to be paid by the peasant, in ale, meat or honey. This undoubtedly is an addition made to RSP as part of its subsequent interpolation and revision either when the collection was made applicable to a second estate or when it and Gerefa were melded together in the early eleventh century (Harvey,1993: 8-22). The final section of this discussion, clause 5.3, foreshadows the interests of Gerefa, and the phrase hede seðe scire healde, ‘he that would hold a shire must heed’ is echoed verbatim in clause 22.1 emphasising the revision of the two pieces when they were joined into a single, unified text.


Clauses 6, 7 and 8 outline the duties of the bee keeper, tenant swineherd and bound swineherd respectively. In the text these are separated from the other specific occupations, which begin in clause 11, by a discussion of the food provisioning due to each labourer in clause 9, and of the ðeow, that is slaves or bound workers, in clause 10, who form the fifth general social rank on the estate. The discussion of the bound workers is rubricated (clause 10) as be wifmonna metsunge, that is ‘concerning the provisioning of women’, which corresponds to the rubric for the previous section, Clause 9, Be manna metsunge, that is ‘concerning the provisioning of men’. In this way the rubrics present the two clauses as contrasted information between males and females. This perhaps indicates that, if the rubricator composed the note him- or herself, that only the first few words or sentence of the clause had been read as, after outlining specific details for the provisioning of bound women, clause 20 then discusses the provisioning of bound men. In this way the contrast between clauses 9 and 10 as written is primarily one of social status rather than of gender.


The clauses on the beekeeper, and the swineherds bridge the gap between the free tenants, cottagers, and peasants and the bound workers by including discussions of the rights of bound and taxable (that is gafol paying) tenant members of both occupations. Although discussion is only made regarding the perquisites of the bound swineherd (upon curing the bacon he is due a small pig, clause 8) the only reference to the bound beekeeper is at the end of clause 7.2 which states that both the bound beekeeper and the bound swineherd are worthy of the same law. Harvey has argued that the separation of the beekeeper and swineherd (whether bound or tenant) from the other occupations makes logical sense as the location where each was working could be at a significant distance from the estate centre and ‘effective supervision would have been difficult’ (Harvey, 1993: 13).


The specific occupations detailed in the collection from clause 11 through to clause 17 begin with the perquisites of the folgere, or ‘follower’: essentially a ploughman and with the occupation possibly named to indicate that he follows the plough guiding it while it is drawn along by horses or oxen. However, if the word specifically means a plough follower, then it is a unique usage of the term in Old English, as the word is more usually applied to the general retainers of a lord (Harvey, 1993: 14-15). Nevertheless, despite being a unique usage of the term, it does seem to be the most likely interpretation as the perquisites for each of the six other occupations directly relate to their duties of their occupations, and the follower is rewarded with two acres of land one ready sown and one for him to sow himself (as well as food, shoes and gloves). The wording of the text in the manuscript states that if the follower earns (ge-arnian) more it is to his benefit, but a more likely reading is that the benefit arises if he ploughs (ge-erian) more. The occupations given after the (plough) follower progress in a logical order: clause 12 contains the perquisites of the sædere, or ‘sower’, who would literally follow along behind the plough team, broadcasting seed into the freshly ploughed field. Again the connection between occupation and reward is seen in the perquisites as the sower receives a bucket of each type of seed for his labours. The follower and the sower are the only two of the named occupations concerned with arable farming, rather than various aspects of husbandry, although of course their duties relate to the working animals of the estate through the use of horses or oxen to pull the plough share.


The attention in the collection progresses from the field-workers who were using the animals to plough and sow the fields to the next occupation, the oxan hyrde, or ‘ox herd’ (clause 13); the position of the person who tended the oxen when they were not being used. The perquisites of the ox herd are again related to the occupation, in that permission is granted for him to graze two of his own oxen alongside those of his lord. In terms of animals tended, the collection moves from the oxen to the cows, by outlining next the perquisites of the cu hyrde, or ‘cowherd’ (clause 14), and from there to the wards of the other main animals reared on the estate, the sceap hyrde, or ‘shepherd’, and the gat hyrde, or ‘goatherd’ in clauses 15 and 16 respectively. All three of these animals are used for milk amongst other things, and milk features in the perquisites of each. The final occupation in this section is the cys wyhrte, or ‘cheese-wright’, in clause 17 whose occupation again forms a logical progression from the people who duties were to watch over the milk-producing animals. The woman filling the position of cheese-wright is rewarded for her labours with a hundred cheeses and the use of strained whey from the lord’s table to make butter with. The making of butter emphasises that the literal translation of the occupation as cheese-wright should be taken to encompass a wider range of dairy activities. The numerous servants working indoors are usually not mentioned; while all the animals and arable crops of the estate would have been used and processed in various ways, the focus in the RSP and Gerefa collection is primarily on the outside workers (Betherum, 1963: 169). The cheese-wright, ostensibly based inside in the dairy, is presumably included in the collection due to the outdoor duty of milking the animals that the person in this occupation must also have performed. That the other indoor occupations, such as wool spinning, are not mentioned may be taken to imply that the shearing of sheep and goats and gathering of wool was not performed by the same people who spun said wool into yarn.


Following the seven occupations on the estate, four more are given in clauses 18 through to 20, the roles of the significant overseers whom Harvey observes would be referred to as ‘manorial officers’ in later contexts (Harvey, 1993: 15). It should be noted here that no distinction is marked in the text or mise-en-page to indicate a distinction between these four duties and the seven proceeding them, and the impulse to draw a line between them may be an artefact of the editorial and historical mind – especially in consideration of the role as estate officials that these occupations would later assume. Certainly the rewards of the first and third follow on in the same manner as before: the bere bryttan, the ‘barley-keeper’ or more loosely ‘barn-keeper’, in clause 18 receives corn dropped at the barn entrance, while the wude wearde, or ‘forester’, in clause 20 receives the lumber from wind-felled trees as his own. The bydele, or ‘beadle’, in clause 19 and the hæigwerde, or ‘hedge-warden’, in clause 20 are given more practical rewards; the beadle, like the cottager of clause 3, must be freer of work than other men because he must be always ready to work, while the hedge-warden is given the land closest to the common pasture so that he need not travel back and forth between the two locations, or neglect one through laziness, but may be able to tend both his own land and the animals on the common pasture with greater ease.


The end of the RSP part of the collection, in clause 21, forms a bridge to the Gerefa part by containing general musing on the diversity of local custom and the need for a competent reeve to learn and uphold as much of it as possible. Following this, in clause 21.2, a number of general folk-rights are outlined, including the provisioning of people at Easter and in winter, feasts at ploughing, and other rewards for the completion of specific tasks such as the top of a hayrick being given upon its completion or one tree for delivering a wagonload of wood.


The Gerefa part of the collection is, following the emendations and additions of the first half of the twelfth century, presented as one piece under a single rubric, at the start of clause 22. This, however, should not be taken as an introduction to a new text; few of the law-codes and related texts in CCCC 383 are given overarching rubrics but instead, like ru.1 at the beginning of RSP refer to the contents of the first clause, or the first lines of the clause as seen previously in clause 10 regarding the provisioning of women. Furthermore, all of the rubrics in CCCC 383 refer to the duties and/or perquisites of specific occupations and social ranks. Despite being rubricated under a single heading, this part of the collection contains a number of areas, beginning with a philosophical musing in clauses 22 and 23, that follow smoothly from the end of RSP although the admonishing tone is more pronounced. A significant concern here is with the need for the reeve to be aware of the details of local customs and ancient laws as established in days of old. From clause 24 to 27 specific duties related to the seasons of the year are outlined, interspersed with two lists of necessary (and highly specific) tools and utensils in clauses 28 and 29. Harvey observes that the details ‘are never systematic or comprehensive’, and that the content is occasionally dictated by literary considerations, such as the repeated alliterative pairings of items, for example the list that ends wudian weodian faldian fiscwer 7mylne macian in clause 24 (Harvey, 1993: 8-10). The Gerefa part of the collection or, indeed the combined edifice of RSP andGerefa as a single piece, do not constitute a complete guide to the administration of an estate and its workers. This, though, is something that the author and redactors of the collection are at pains to point out, and the first-person singular voice who admonishes the would-be reeve and reader throughout both pieces is frequently at pains to observe that one person cannot tell everything that must be known and that customs vary from place to place.


This emphasis on diversity and the limit of any one person’s knowledge forms the basis of the conclusion of the collection, clause 30, along with a further admonishment that the reeve who wishes to be successful should not overlook even the least significant of details. The closing lines of the collection, clause 30.1, take a somewhat metrical and formulaic note, first to remind the reader of the diversity of knowledge required of the reeve, the limits of his (or her) own knowledge and injunction that anyone who knows better should make that knowledge known. When the surviving Old English copy of RSPand Gerefa is considered in its manuscript contexts, it can be argued that the preceding collection of laws in CCCC 383 may have served the purpose of supplying the requisite knowledge of ancient laws to which clauses 5.3, 21, 22 of RSP and Gerefa allude (Gobbitt, 2009: 18-21).


Notes on the Edition and Translation

The edition presented here has sought to respond to some of the problems identified in previous editions of both RSP and Gerefa, particularly that of Liebermann which has remained the definitive text since its publication (Liebermann, 1903: 444-55). While Liebermann’s transcription has been described as ‘impeccable’ he also heavily normalised the spacing, punctuation and capitalisation throughout (Harvey 1993: 5; Gobbitt, 2010b: 122-23). The clause division and numbering in Liebermann’s edition can also appear erratic; RSP and Gerefa are edited as separate texts and the sub-divisions where introduced to include clauses identified by grammar or subject, while not conflicting with the numeration of previous published editions. A table of concordance for the clause divisions of this edition in relation to those of Liebermann is given at the end of this commentary. Liebermann’s edition also collated the Latin translation of the Quadripartitus alongside the Old English version of CCCC 383. The edition here is of the Old English RSPandGerefa, with notable variants between in the Latin version having been discussed previously in the commentary.


In light of these concerns, the edition here will retain manuscript punctuation (which is consistently a medial punctus, that is a point positioned slightly above the ruled line) word division and, especially, capitalisation. A small number of apparent copying errors made by the main scribe of CCCC 383 can be identified in the text, such as the repetition of a few words (dittography), the use of d for ð or wynn, ƿ, for p, and so forth. The approach in this edition has been to retain these quirks in the Old English edition, provide a commentary and correction in the notes and to silently correct them in the translation. With the exception of the Tironian note, given in the edition as ‘7’, all abbreviations have been expanded and marked with italics. Where possible the original line breaks and other divisions of the manuscript have been maintained. However, where a word has been split over two lines – usually indicated as such by the main scribe with a waving hyphen – I have re-joined the two parts and indicated a line break with | and a page break with ||.


Clause divisions of the text are based on the mise-en-page as produced by the main scribe. On the basis that RSP and Gerefa were redacted into a single piece almost a century before being copied into CCCC 383 in that form, and as there is no other Old English witness of the full text(s) (although the Quadripartitus contains the Latin version of the RSP part), the clause division here will follow the mise-en-page of CCCC 383. New items in the text block (each beginning with a red pen-drawn initial) are numbered consecutively. Sub-divisions of the text-block, through the use of majuscules following a punctus and, in the case of 21.2, with a red pen-drawn initial mid-line, are numbered following a point. The rubrics, although a slightly later addition to the manuscript, are included along with the clause which they introduce.


Concordance with Liebermann’s Clause Divisions

The following presents a concordance between the clause divisions used in this edition, and those used by Felix Liebermann in Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen. Liebermann’s abbreviations of “rect.” for RSP and “Ger” for Gerefa are used as appropriate.


This Edition


RSPandGerefa 1

Rect 1

RSPandGerefa 2

Rect 2

RSPandGerefa 3

Rect 3

RSPandGerefa 4

Rect 4

RSPandGerefa 4.1

Rect 4, 4.1, 4.1a, 4.1b, 4.2

RSPandGerefa 4.2

Rect 4.3, 4.3a

RSPandGerefa 5

Rect 4.4

RSPandGerefa 5.1

Rect 4.5

RSPandGerefa 5.2

Rect 4.5

RSPandGerefa 5.3

Rect 4.5, 4.6

RSPandGerefa 6

Rect 5, 5.1

RSPandGerefa 6.1

Rect 5.1

RSPandGerefa 6.2

Rect 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5

RSPandGerefa 7

Rect 6

RSPandGerefa 7.1

Rect 6.1

RSPandGerefa 7.2

Rect 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4

RSPandGerefa 8

Rect 7

RSPandGerefa 9

Rect 8

RSPandGerefa 10

Rect 9, 9.1

RSPandGerefa 11

Rect 10, 10.1

RSPandGerefa 12

Rect 11

RSPandGerefa 13

Rect 12

RSPandGerefa 14

Rect 13, 13.1

RSPandGerefa 15

Rect 14

RSPandGerefa 16

Rect 15

RSPandGerefa 17

Rect 16

RSPandGerefa 18

Rect 17

RSPandGerefa 19

Rect 18

RSPandGerefa 20

Rect 19

RSPandGerefa 20.1

Rect 20

RSPandGerefa 21

Rect 21, 21.1, 21.2, 21.3

RSPandGerefa 21.1

Rect 21.4

RSPandGerefa 21.2

Rect 21.4, 21.5

RSPandGerefa 22

Ger 1

RSPandGerefa 22.1

Ger 2

RSPandGerefa 22.2

Ger 2.1

RSPandGerefa 22.3

Ger 3

RSPandGerefa 22.4

Ger 3.1

RSPandGerefa 22.5

Ger 4

RSPandGerefa 22.6

Ger 5

RSPandGerefa 22.7

Ger 5

RSPandGerefa 22.8

Ger 6

RSPandGerefa 22.9

Ger 7

RSPandGerefa 22.10

Ger 7

RSPandGerefa 22.11

Ger 7

RSPandGerefa 23

Ger 8

RSPandGerefa 23.1

Ger 8

RSPandGerefa 24

Ger 9

RSPandGerefa 25

Ger 10

RSPandGerefa 26

Ger 11

RSPandGerefa 26.1

Ger 11

RSPandGerefa 26.2

Ger 11

RSPandGerefa 26.3

Ger 11

RSPandGerefa 27

Ger 12

RSPandGerefa 27.1

Ger 13

RSPandGerefa 27.2

Ger 14

RSPandGerefa 28

Ger 15

RSPandGerefa 29

Ger 16

RSPandGerefa 29.1

Ger 16

RSPandGerefa 29.2

Ger 17

RSPandGerefa 30

Ger 18, 18.1

RSPandGerefa 30.1

Ger 18.2, 19







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