Magna Carta
Society of Antiquaries of London
In association with ITSEE, University of Birmingham

Return to Resource Homepage Button Return to Library Button

Description of MS 60

The Liber Niger of Peterborough is the cartulary of the Abbey at Peterborough, which was first copied and compiled in the early twelfth century and supplemented over the next two centuries. There is a wide variety of land grants and charters whose originals date from 664, copied into this manuscript in an early twelfth century hand. More was added at various times in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The contents include Old English, Anglo-Norman and Latin charters, surveys, and lists, with the text of Magna Carta from folio 225v to 228v. Magna Carta in this manuscript has been given the title ROVNEMEDE (not Magna Carta) in large capitals, and the text begins with the superscription Johannes d[e]i gr[ati]a rex anglie. The beginnings of clauses have been marked by the scribe with a double bar. These were made into decorative Cs with red ink, which have been consistently added to the double bars from clause six (folio 226r) through to the end of the text. The copy of Magna Carta in this manuscript is contained in folios 5 to 8 of an eight-page section which was added to the Liber Niger (these are folios 221 to 228 of the cartulary). Folios 222, 223, 224, 227 and 228 are marked at the bottom in pencil with II, II, IV, VII and VIII. This whole section seems to have been copied by the same late thirteenth century hand.

In general, this is a fairly faithful copy of the authorised 1215 version of Magna Carta, with much variation in word grammar, spelling and vocabulary, some small errors, with part of a sentence occasionally left out. The clauses follow the traditional order of Magna Carta up to folio 227v, where the scribe copied clause 48, then clause 55, before returning to clause 49, 50 and so on. As clauses 47-49 and 55 all begin with 'Omnes ', it is reasonable to assume the copyist accidentally copied clause 55 instead of 49 due to eyeskip, realised that several clauses had been skipped sometime after he had begun copying clause 55, and then returned to clause 49 when 55 had been copied. Otherwise, the text does not vary much from the authorised version. Clauses 52 and 53 are a single clause in the Liber Niger copy, and clause 60 has been left out. There are many variations, including changed tenses (e.g. velint, the third person present subjunctive, was changed to voluerint, the third person future perfect, at the end of clause 45), though there is no change in meaning; synonyms (e.g. viris to hominibus in clause 4), and some numbers have been miscopied (e.g. quator becomes iii in clause 18 and the regnal year was becomes 16 (rather than 17) in clause 62).

This manuscript has one significant error: in this manuscript, a fictitious Archbishop Henry of York was named as one of the counsellors of the king who advised him to issue Magna Carta. The counsellor is, in fact, Archbishop Henry of Dublin, as the engrossments show. This is an understandable error, since our scribe would have expected the archbishop of York to have been present at Runnymede and did not know that at the time there was no archbishop of York. The canons of York had elected Simon Langton, the brother of Archbishop Stephen Langton of Canterbury, but John had sought the pope's aid in removing the brother of one of his greatest political enemies.

Dr Courtnay Konshuh

© Society of Antiquaries of London, 2015
For any enquiries, please email the Society or use the contact page.