The Customary Project

The starting point for this project was W. H. Frere, The Use of Sarum, vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1898), which is still a much used book (discussed in greater detail here). In this volume Frere presented two composite texts of the thirteenth-century Old Customary (which he calls The Consuetudinary), and the fourteenth-century New Customary (which he calls the Customary). He presented these two texts in parallel, but in doing so had to re-order portions of the texts so that comparable sections could be matched with one another. There was no English translation.

The initial plan for this project was modest:

  • to translate Frere’s two edited texts
  • to present both Latin texts and English translations in electronic format
  • to enable each text to be read in the original order of the principal manuscript source in either Latin or English
  • to enable each text to be compared with the other, either in Latin or English
  • to allow each text to be viewed in Latin with adjacent English translation.

It soon became apparent that this was not going to be satisfactory. Frere consulted all the available sources of both Old and New Customary, and recorded variants meticulously; but his use of different forms of bracket made it hard to deconstruct the original readings. Some of the problems are eloquently articulated by Richard Pfaff, The liturgy in medieval England (Cambridge, 2009), pp. 373-76, 412-14.

The project was therefore enlarged. Since Frere’s edition is so widely used, it seemed sensible (a) to retain it in electronic form as originally planned, and (b) to retain Frere’s sectional divisions. However, the inclusion of readings and translations of each single source proved to be essential. Four sources have been transcribed, edited and translated: two of the Old Customary, and two of the New Customary; two (one Old, one New) associated directly with Salisbury, and two from other places. (The sources are discussed in more detail here.)

At this point there was a review of editorial method, and consideration of users. With a modest project budget, and a priority for a simple but robust design, there was little scope to include a sophisticated mark-up that might have enabled us to present a critical edition within the comparative edition. Furthermore, we felt that there were likely to be two principal kinds of user: those who wanted a clear, clean text to explore the contents of the Old and New Customaries and to compare the differences between them; and those who wanted to explore in greater detail the source readings. Comparison of texts requires display on the screen; scrutiny of source readings may be easier on paper.

Each of the four texts newly edited from the manuscript source is therefore presented (a) in electronic form, for exploration and comparison, and (b) as a downloadable and printable PDF file.

The project is, of course, ongoing. As this resource is made available, we hope that scholars will offer comment, correction, and connections to relevant related research.