Series Methodology

A Fête at Bermondsey, c. 1570 (oil on panel), Gheeraerts, Marcus, the Elder (c. 1520-90) / Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, UK / Bridgeman Images


From the start of the REED project, research areas have been defined geographically by county and major city. Although the progress of several centuries has obscured or drastically redesigned some county boundaries, REED observes county limits as recognized by their contemporary, pre-1642 records. Thus, modern Cumbria reverts to its earlier division into Cumberland and Westmorland.

Important families sometimes had more than one residence in a county and occasionally it has proved difficult to identify the exact location for family entertainments. Households, therefore, are sorted under family name rather than parish or borough. Other documents, such as statutes or visitation articles, relate to a diocese as a whole; these are identified by diocese (as, for example, Diocese of Chester). Similarly, there are county or quarter session records which cannot be pinpointed to a particular location.

Principles of Selection

REED collections of records attempt to include all known references to dramatic, secular musical, and mimetic ceremonial performances before 1642 by location. Performance has been broadly defined to encompass nearly every mimetic, musical, or ritualistic form of play used to entertain or otherwise engage an audience. Entries may record an actual and identifiable performance or simply provide information that illuminates a performance tradition. Musical performance includes all forms of secular music by itinerant or local minstrels, fiddlers, musicians, and town waits in secular performance, as well as information about musical instruments and practices, but it excludes singing and instrumental music as part of public worship. Parish ales, wakes, revels, and fairs are included only when it can be shown that they actually included entertainment such as music, drama, baitings, or dancing. Liturgical ceremonial and drumming for militia musters are not part of REED’s mandate.


The usefulness of the documents depends in large measure on the accuracy of their dating; they have therefore been dated with care, by year and, whenever possible, to the month and day. The writers of the documents nearly all assume that the year began on 25 March, and for dates between 1 January and 24 March the years have routinely been advanced to conform with modern practice. This is indicated by using a slash, as in '1 February 1476/7.'

Records derived from accounts are dated in the heading according to the accounting year (eg, 1611–12), with the accounting period or the rendering date, when only that is known, given in the subheading (eg, (18 October–17 October) or (rendered 26 February 1612/13)).

If it can sometimes be difficult to date the account itself, it is often relatively easy to date its entries at least roughly. Most entries are not dated within the accounts themselves, but in nearly every account at least a handful of entries are either dated or datable by day and month. These entries make it possible to determine whether an account is in fairly good chronological order. Where possible, therefore, a date has been provided for each relevant entry, giving, where there is not an exact date, the limits of the date suggested by the chronology of the account. These dates can be presumed with certainty to be the date on which the performer received payment and the date of performance is therefore presumed likely to have been on or near that date. Where the account is not chronological, or there are too few dated entries to tell, the date given is that of the whole account.

Ecclesiastical and civil court records present dating problems as well because the only truly fixable date is the one on which the court was held. Therefore, the date that is assigned to extracts from the courts is that of the court proceeding, while the probable date of the performance, to the extent that it can be derived, is given in an endnote or footnote to the text. When it is possible to trace the dates on which the case moved through the several stages of its process, those dates are also given, whether in subheadings for subsequent extracts concerning the case or in summaries of the process in endnotes. The process in church courts seems to have remained fairly constant from diocese to diocese; a full explanation of standard process can be found in David Klausner (ed), Herefordshire/Worcestershire, REED (Toronto, 1990), 38–40.

Editorial Conventions

Each record is preceded by a name or descriptive title, along with a brief identification of its source. On a separate line the precise accounting period of the entry (where known) and the manuscript account heading (where available) is given. Where folio or page numbers have been supplied editorially, they are enclosed within square brackets. The symbol (A) in the left margin indicates documents that are antiquarian.

Bibliographic citations are included in full in editorial apparatus, with the exception of standard reference works or books and articles that contain original transcriptions of the documents. Such works are cited in short form by author, title, and page number where they appear but a complete citation for each is included in the Bibliography section.

Place names and surnames are given in modern form in the editorial apparatus, where that can be ascertained, and titles and family names of nobility and other public figures in forms commonly used by historians. Succession numbers, where provided, follow the absolute sequence given in The Complete Peerage. The Complete Peerage and other standard reference works used for the purpose are listed in the Bibliography, General section. Other surnames are usually cited in the most common form for the individual occurring in the Records.

Transcription Conventions

Within practical limits, the general layout of the originals has been preserved. Headings and account totals are shown in the approximate position they occupy in the source. Marginalia are indicated by the circled symbol 'm,' inserted in the text near their occurrence in the MS; a circled 'r' or 'l' beside the marginale text indicates whether it is in the right or left margin. Totals are transcribed only when all the amounts making up the totals are also transcribed. In continuous prose, the paragraph divisions of the manuscripts have been retained, but not the lineation. Where the layout of the original is idiosyncratic (eg, a diagonal left margin), no attempt has been made to reproduce that format.

Dittography and other obvious scribal errors are noted. Decay, damage, or other problems which adversely affect the legibility of the original are either briefly noted in a footnote or discussed at length in an endnote following the record.

Manuscript punctuation has been retained, except that excessive scribal pointing, most manuscript braces, and all line fillers have been ignored. Virgules are indicated as / and //.

The spelling of the original has been preserved, along with the capitalization. 'ff' has been retained for 'F'; the standard and elongated forms of 'I' are uniformly transcribed as 'I.' Minuscules have been preferred where it has been difficult to distinguish minuscules from majuscules. Ornamental capitals and display letters have been transcribed as ordinary letters but are footnoted. Arabic '1' has been used for the 'i' occasionally found in arabic numerals. Majuscule letters appearing in the middle of words otherwise written in minuscules are presented as minuscules.

Abbreviated words have been expanded, with italics to indicate letters supplied by the editor. Where manuscripts yield insufficient evidence to judge individual scribal habits, abbreviations are expanded to classical forms in Latin and modern British forms in English. First names have been expanded wherever possible. However in cases where it is impossible to determine what the scribe intended – whether, for example, 'minstr' refers to one or several minstrels – the word has been left unexpanded.

Abbreviations for sums of money ('li,' 's,' 'd,' 'ob' (for half-penny)), 'viz,' and 'etc' or '&c' and abbreviations cumbersome to expand, including those typical for weights and measures ('lb' for 'pound'), are retained. 'Mr' and 'Dr' are left unexpanded when introducing a proper name, but expanded when used as nouns or when occurring before another title (eg, 'Master Mayor'). 'Xp-' and 'xp-' are expanded as 'Christ-' and ‘christ-’. A looped mark of abbreviation has been expanded as 'es' except when it follows an 'e': in this case it is expanded as 's.' Where single minims are too many or too few by obvious scribal error, an editorially corrected version is supplied in the text and the textual oddity is noted. Otiose flourishes are ignored. Superlinear letters are lowered to the line except when used with numerals ('xo,' 'xxiiijti').

Where two or more copies of the same document survive, the editor has chosen a base text and collated significant variants. In all collations differences in capitalization, form of abbreviation, word-division, and punctuation have been omitted.

Editorial symbols and abbreviations used in the records text can be linked to from the Helpful Links section in the right margin of individual Record pages, or from About the Records in the upper navigation bar.

About the Translations

The documents have been translated as literally as possible. Unclear, technical, or archaic terms, especially those pertaining to canon or common law, performance, and music, are usually given a stock translation equivalent but receive a fuller treatment in the glossaries.

Capitalization and punctuation are in accordance with modern practice. As in the records text, diamond brackets indicate obliterations and strike throughs, cancellations. Cancellations are not always translated; they may be translated when the whole entry is cancelled or when they seem to be of special interest or relevance. Round brackets enclose words supplied editorially, most often because they are needed for grammatical sense in English or to offer an alternative translation of a difficult or ambiguous phrase.

In translated documents also containing English, the English sections are normally indicated with '(English),' but in some cases, in which the syntax has become entangled, the English text appears in the translation in modern spelling. All Latin vocabulary not found in the Oxford Latin Dictionary or the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources is found in the Latin Glossary. All Anglo-French vocabulary not found in the electronic edition of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary (online at the Anglo-Norman Hub) is found in the Anglo-French Glossary.

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