In filling out a footnote in the diss, I ran across a new and fascinating study by one of the current Great Masters of Anglo-Saxon Studies, Michael Lapidge’s The Anglo-Saxon Library. Here’s his conclusion on page 127 of the content of monastic libraries:
Evidence of various kinds indicates that Anglo-Saxon libraries were not large, at least in comparison with ninth-century Continental libraries, as we know these from surviving inventories, or with later medieval cathedral and monastic libraries in England, as we know these from the catalogues printed in CBMLC. . . . The typical Anglo-Saxon monastic library probably owned fewer than fifty volumes, all of which could be housed in a simple book-chest.
To judge from the combined evidence of inventories, surviving manuscripts, and citations, as set out in the Catalogue below, the typical Anglo-Saxon library housed a small core of staple patristic texts, scarcely exceeding twenty titles:
- Gregory, Dialogi [Dialogues—book 2 being the life of Benedict], Hom. .xl. in Euangelia [The 40 Gospel Homilies], Moralia in Iob, and Regula pastoralis [Pastoral Care];
- Isidore, De ecclesiasticis officiis, De natura rerum, Entymologiae [His 20 volume encyclopedia], and Synonyma;
- Jerome, Epistulae [Letters] and possibly the Comm. in Euangelium Matthaei; and
- Augustine, De civitate Dei [City of God], De trinitate, Enarrationes in Psalmos, Enchiridion, and the Epistulae and Sermones in selections.
To these works of the four major patristic authors (at least as suggested by the Anglo-Saxon evidence), one may add several individual works: Cassian, Conlationes [Conferences] and Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica, as translated by Rufinuis . . .
[Needless to say, the patristic material would also be filled out by the homiliaries which are essentially patristic anthologies.]
His discussion continues from here, but this is the section that particularly caught my eye. I find this list fascinating because, when I ponder what books and what ecclesiastical learning is most needful, this list isn’t too different from what I’d pick—certainly as the core of a patristics section. The one major change would be the Isidore block. Isidore was the major encyclopedist of the early medieval world and the items included here would be more properly replaced by modern rather than medieval reference works: Hatchett, the Anchor Bible Dictionary, etc.