Frere's editions in The Use of Sarum

The best known edition of the Old and New Customaries is that edited by W. H. Frere in the first volume of The Use of Sarum (1898). The second volume (1901) contained the Ordinal and Tonary.

Walter Howard Frere (1863-1938), one of the founding members of the Community of the Resurrection, remains one of most significant scholars of the Use of Sarum. His editions of the Customary, Ordinal, Tonary, Antiphonal and Gradual of the Use of Sarum are widely used as standard texts.

Frere called the Old Customary ‘the Consuetudinary’, and the New Customary ‘the Customary’. Here they are referred to as the Old Customary and the New Customary. For a discussion of these terms, see here.

Frere based his edition of the Old Customary (‘Consuetudinary’) on the version found in British Library, MS Harley 1001 (identified as OCR in this website). Under most circumstances, Frere preferred the earliest source (e.g. his facsimile editions of Antiphonale Sarisburiense and Graduale Sarisburiense). Here he preferred to use a later recension, rather than the oldest surviving text found in the Register of St Osmund (identified as OCO in this website). He justified his choice on the grounds that OCR represented the fullest version of the Old Customary. However, there were already two printed editions of OCO available, one in Daniel Rock’s Church of our fathers (vol III/2, 1853), the other in the two-volume edition of the complete Register of St Osmund, edited by W. H. Rich Jones (1883), in which OCO is the first item. The latter included a parallel English translation. Frere, in his preface to his edition, is very clear about the shortcomings of both editions of OCO, but still preferred to present OCR, which also assimilates or annotates the readings of three other sources to which he had access, including OCO.

Frere’s edition of the New Customary (‘Customary’) was based principally on the manuscript now in Corpus Christi College, Oxford, MS 44 (identified here as NCC). Unlike OCO and OCR the versions of the New Customary follow the same order, except in the last few sections which vary in order and content. As in the Old Customary, Frere assimilated and annotated the readings of all the sources of the New Customary available, conflating the closing sections of all sources, so that all are included.

The quality of Frere’s work is not in question, and it has stood the test of time admirably. His presentation is more questionable. In the main texts of both Old and New Customaries he employed a complex system of brackets to distinguish what appears in which source. More seriously, he printed his two texts as parallel columns. This involved very considerable re-ordering of the New Customary. Furthermore, since Frere matched identical or related texts in the two sources, there are significant gaps in both columns where there is no correspondence. This makes it difficult to read either version as a coherent text, and almost impossible in the case of the New Customary. More seriously, this form of presentation has tempted readers to leap indiscriminately from one column to the other in order to maximise the detail that can be extracted from the sources, rather than distinguish between them. Frere did, however, present helpful tables of the contents of OCO, OCR and the New Customary (principally following NCC).

Both of Frere’s texts are included in this website. The facility of database presentation allows the reader to consult either of the texts in their original order, and to compare them both one with the other, or singly with one of the manuscript sources. An English translation of both texts is also available here. There is no attempt to represent either Frere’s complex of editorial brackets, or his editorial notes. These are readily available in reprints of the original edition, or in the online scanned version (