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13th Century Medieval Wooden Manuscript Split Tally Stick / Stock Kent 1278-1283 For Sale

13th Century Medieval Wooden Manuscript Split Tally Stick / Stock Kent 1278-1283

[Medieval Manuscripts] [Accounting] [Law - Jurisprudence] [Charters] [Tallies] [Ecclesiastica] [Kent, England] [Middle Kentish] [John de Bradfield] 13th Century Split Tally Stick; Rochester, Kent; 1278 - 1283; Hazelwood Tally; 221 mm by 18 mm.

In Good Antiquarian condition, a Split Tally of Hazel, written one side, in brown ink, in the vernacular of Middle Kent, in an extremely fine Charter Hand "3 Shillings, Tuppence [by notching] h[ad of] Johne Bradfi(e)ld, Eђ [iscopi - i.e. "Bisceop"] ♦ Windhill Minnis ♦ Yantlet ♦ Al Halwes." Verso, a collection label - almost certainly that of Sir Thomas Phillipps - marked 2 | 1774 (i.e. that of his Grandson, Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick, from the vast hoard of leaves and fragments acquired by William H. Robinson Limited, and sorted by Ralph Lewis).

Click the thumbnail for a high resolution view. Minnis (also Mennys, before 1250 AD) is defined by A Dictionary of the Kentish Dialect and Provincialisms in Use in the County of Kent as "a wide tract of ground, partly copse and partly moor; a high common; a waste piece of rising ground." This Tally, then served as a receipt for the exchange of land (a tract at Windhill, bordered by Yantlet [Creek], at Allhallows, Kent) for currency - the three broad notches enumerating Shillings, and the two narrower being Pence. Al Halwes - the Middle Kentish name for the village of Allhallows, is still bordered at the east by Yantlet Creek (though the creek is now a dry siltbed); Windhill or Windhill Green, was an hamlet, once part of Allhallows-on-Sea, though the buildings now are entirely lost. The land itself became, in 1285, the site of Hoo Alhallows (i.e. All Saints) Church, the second in the Diocese of Rochester.

John(e) de Bradfield, a Monk of Berkshire and later of Rochester, was elevated to Bishop of Rochester on 29 May, 1278 upon the drowning of Walter de Merton (founder of Merton College, Oxford), from the post of Precentor of Rochester. He served at Rochester Cathedral until his death on 23 April, 1283. His remains are held in a raised tomb within the Cathedral's walls and his effigy, in granite, is one of three which now graces the central altar of the Cathedral.

Tally Sticks have been in use for millennia; an historical reference is made by Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – 79) regarding the best wood to use for tallies. In Great Britain, the Split Tally came into use in or very near the year 1100, when King Henry I initiated the tally stick system as a tool of the Exchequer for the collection of taxes by local sheriffs, and the split wooden tally remained in continuous use until the year 1826. By the year 1200, the split tally had come into use as a fashion in which to issue receipts, debt leins, loans and advances, since - because the halves could be rejoined to confirm the amount - tallies made the forging of amounts nearly impossible. The stick (a squared Hazelwood, Oak or Hickory branch being the most common) was marked with a system of notches and then split lengthwise with each party to the transaction receiving one half of the marked stick as proof. In the latter Middle Ages, this technique was refined in various ways and became virtually tamper proof. One of the refinements was to make the two halves of the stick of different lengths - the longer part being the "stock" (precisely from which we take out modern word for a certificate representing a share of a corporation) - given to the party which had advanced money (or other items), and the shorter portion being called the "foil," that being retained by the borrower. The split tally was accepted as legal proof in medieval courts and the Napoleonic Code (1804) still makes reference to the tally stick in Article 1333.

Doubtless the "stock" portion of Phillipps 2 / 1774 (which once included the foil as well: 1/ 1774), sold by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge on 01 July, 1889. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792 - 1872), the illegitimate only child of a wealthy manufacturing family, had an average childhood including Rugby School, University College and Oxford. Before graduating from University, Phillipps established himself as an avid collector of topography and genealogy; it is speculated Phillipps’ obsession with genealogy and heraldry had foundations in his illegitimacy. Shortly after his father’s death in 1818 Phillipps married and acquired a Baronetcy. Phillipps and his wife took up residence in his father’s estate, Middle Hill, and he began a life-long obsession with collecting rare books and manuscripts in earnest.

The earliest known catalogue by Phillips was compiled in 1803 when he was a lad of eleven years. The catalogue consisted of 134 books, many of which had notations of the prices paid. Phillipps’ passion for books, which started at such a tender age, contributed to a pattern of indebtedness, which would plague him until his death. The expense of running an estate combined with Phillipps’ obsessive buying habits caused him to flee his debtors in England; he relocated (briefly) to Berne. The move, however, only tempted his passion for books all the more. The impending destruction of manuscripts and leaves pushed Phillipps to buy voraciously; he purchased leaves destined for shoe leather, manuscripts by the pound from binders and added great books such as a 15th century Virgil to his collection during this period. It has been said that Phillipps wished to own one copy of every book in the world; the massive size of his collection reflects just such a goal. It is estimated that Phillipps had a library of between 77,000 and 150,000 books and manuscripts at the time of his death in 1872.

At Middle Hill, Phillipps worked with his own binder and printer George Bretherton. The men collaborated to create the Middle Hill Press (founded 1822), which is famous for its “Middle Hill terra cotta” boards. The primary function of the Middle Hill Press was the publication of books on early English topography and genealogy; Phillipps edited a large number of the books, himself, and limited print runs to 25-100 copies. The press also published pamphlets, leaflets and extracts from registers as well as Bibliotheca Phillippica (43 catalogues printed to document both the Phillipps collection and that of other institutions and collectors) and Catalogus Liborum Manuscriptorum (a catalog of Phillipps own manuscripts).

Between 1820 and 1850 Sir Thomas Phillipps was perhaps the best-known buyer of manuscripts and rare books; his influence and power in the field of collecting caused booksellers to extend credit and await payment patiently. It is estimated that Phillipps had spent £250,000 on books and manuscripts by the time he was a septuagenarian. When Phillipps produced his first catalogue in 1803 the world of collecting manuscripts and books was haphazard and disorganized; at the time of his death, 69 years later, the business of rare books had become a well-established, respectable trade. Phillipps’ bibliomania led to a collection so large, that Sotheby’s saleed off thousands of his manuscripts and books between 1886 and 1950; books from the Phillipps collection continue to be seen at sale more than one hundred years after his death.

Though not quite so rare as the Royal Tally Sticks of the Office of the Exchequer (the vast majority of which perished in the Burning of Parliament on 16 October, 1834), early Medieval tallies are still extremely scarce, and those in vernacular dialects such as this example with its Middle Kentish representations of "fild" and "minnis" are seen far less often than those in Latin.


13th Century Medieval Wooden Manuscript Split Tally Stick / Stock Kent 1278-1283

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13th Century Medieval Wooden Manuscript Split Tally Stick / Stock Kent 1278-1283:
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