Research Outputs

Anthology:  ‘Meke Reverence and Devotion’: A Reader in Late Medieval Religious Writing

The anthology that will form one of the main outputs of this project will be in two parts. The first will collect a range of religious texts from 1325-1535 which appear in the devotional miscellanies that form the project’s corpus. With texts ranging from basic pastoralia to advanced meditations, the anthology will showcase the diverse spiritual interests of lay and clerical readers in late medieval London. By bringing together a wide range of vernacular religious texts, many of which have not been edited before, the anthology will demonstrate the cultural vitality, literary complexity and functional diversity of religious writing in this period. In doing so, the first part of the anthology will contradict standard scholarly conceptualisations of medieval religion in contestatory terms of ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ theology.

The second part of the anthology will investigate the circulation of its selected texts in devotional miscellanies by providing a number of manuscript case studies that encapsulate the vitality of devotional miscellany production in medieval London. The edited texts and manuscript case studies will, we believe, provide new evidence of the role played by the Guildhall library in the production and dissemination of religious writing in the city.


Monograph: ‘Multiplicacioun of manye bokes’: the Guildhall Library and London’s Fifteenth-Century Pastoral Revolution

The project monograph will explore the material, intellectual, and political contexts for the riot of Middle English pastoral production that took place in England, and especially London, in the fifteenth century. The monograph, we hope, will disrupt contemporary understandings of literacy and literary culture in fifteenth-century London and overturn an account of English religion that still too often depends on binaries of orthodox and heterodox religiosity. Building on the applicants’ initial research into fifteenth-century London’s devotional-literary landscape (Kelly and Perry, 2011; 2013), the monograph will explore the idea that London citizens created new programmes of religious education for the City’s clergy and for literate lay communities that have hitherto gone largely unnoticed by scholarship.

The book will explore the generation of what we believe was a specifically civic form of lay religiosity, a turn in the City’s devotio-literary consumption that explains the hitherto unexplained explosion of pastoral book production that took place in fifteenth-century London. We contend such books were the true ‘best sellers’ of the age, and although these so-called ‘miscellaneous manuals’ (Raymo) have received scholarly attention, traditional accounts of the corpus as emanating from within London’s commercial book-producing fraternity neither explains the extraordinary variety of these books, nor the learned interaction of the scribes with the texts they were producing. The monograph will explore the idea that the answer to these conundrums lies at the centre of the City’s civic administration, the Guildhall.

As James Willoughby has argued, the Guildhall Library seems to have provided the template for similar ‘common libraries’ elsewhere in England, in Worcester, Bristol and Norwich (2011). Common libraries demonstrate the extent to which civic and bureaucratic cultures overlapped with those of the clergy. In this context, the involvement of Reginald Pecock with the Guildhall Library is particularly suggestive. That Pecock was initially an enthusiastic advocate of the work of John Carpenter and the Guildhall Library is suggested through the network of Londoners within which he participated in the 1420s and 30s. The monograph will explore the extent to which the new cultures of pastoral book production in the City provided a template for Pecock’s own, ultimately doomed bookish attempts to intercede in the ways in which Londoners were learning religion through books.