Anglo-Saxon England

Research Article

The ‘Dunstan B’ charters

Simon Keynesa1

a1 Trinity College, Cambridge

Thanks largely to the work of John Mitchell Kemble, it could be said in connection with the publication of a charter of King Edgar in 1984 that ‘the discovery of a new Anglo-Saxon charter is a very rare event’;1 yet by a strange and happy coincidence two more charters of the same king have recently come to light, in quite different places. The first was issued in 958, when Edgar was king of the Mercians, and relates to an estate at Coundon in Warwickshire. The second was issued in 974, near the end of Edgar's reign as king of all the English, and relates to an estate at Brickendon in Hertfordshire. In both cases, the charters survive in the form of early modern transcripts made direct from originals now lost; the transcripts are of excellent quality, complete with vernacular boundary-clauses, full witness-lists, and notes of the vernacular endorsements.2 Both charters prove, moreover, to belong to a distinctive series known to modern scholarship as the ‘Dunstan B’ charters, which stand apart from the mainstream of diplomatic practices in the tenth century, and which appear to have a particular association as a group with Glastonbury abbey. Provisional editions of the two ‘new’ charters are presented below, pending the fuller treatment which each must receive in its appropriate archival context; the opportunity is then taken to redefine the corpus of ‘Dunstan B’ charters, and to review their significance in diplomatic and historical terms.3