Cyningas and cartae: An Introduction in the Diplomatic of Royal Charters in Early Medieval England


Timofey V. Guimon

Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Denis V. Sukhino-Khomenko

University of Gothenburg (Sweden)


Full Text (pdf)

For citation: Sukhino-Khomenko, Denis V., Guimon, Timofey VCyningas and cartae: An Introduction in the Diplomatic of Royal Charters in Early Medieval England // Graphosphaera. 2022. Vol. 2. № 1. P. 25–174. URL: 

DOI: 10.32608/2782-5272-2022-2-1-25-174

Abstract: The paper is an introduction in the diplomatic of royal charters in pre-1066 England. The paper comprises a terminological introduction, an overview of the history of the publication, study, and the main scholarly discussions concerning Anglo-Saxon charters from the 16th and up to the early 21st century (including the present situation with electronic databases of Anglo-Saxon charters, and the Soviet and Russian tradition of study and translating of those documents), overviews of the form, content, history, and the main issues of study of the two categories of Anglo-Saxon royal acta: diplomas and writs (including such issues as the origin of both diplomas and writs, the nature of bookland, boundary clauses, witnesses lists, the use of languages, the potential of the charters as a source for the history of economy and ideology, and a number of others), and, finally, an attempt to sum up the data on the practical functionning of royal charters (from their composing to their practical uses).


Key words: England, Anglo-Saxons, acts, charters, diplomas, writs, medieval archives, bookland, source studies, diplomatics


Key terms. P. 30.

History of the study and publication of Anglo-Saxon charters. P. 33.

The antiquarians and collectors of the 16th–18th centuries. P. 33.

Editors and first editions: the 19th century. P. 38.

Seven decades of “cumulative development”: from the 1890s to the early 1960s. P. 42.

Three revolutions of the 1960s: Sawyer’s handlist, the BASC series, and the discussion on the royal chancery. P. 48.

Anglo-Saxon charters online. New additions to the corpus and the transition from paper to the Electronic Sawyer and other resources. P. 57.

Russian translations of Anglo-Saxon charters. P. 62.

Anglo-Saxon diplomatic at the turn of the centuries. P. 64.

Diplomas. P. 70.

The diplomas of the 7th–9th centuries. P. 70.

A general characteristics of the corpus. P. 70.

Diplomas on single sheets of parchment. P. 74.

Addressees and addressers of diplomas. Some special cases. P. 76.

The origin of diploma. P. 78.

The draftsmen of diplomas and the problem of chanceries. P. 82.

The language of diplomas. P. 83.

The diplomas of the 10th and 11th centuries. P. 84.

The formation of a single tradition. The problem of the caesura. P. 85.

The “golden age” of the Anglo-Saxon diploma. P. 90.

Diplomas in the turbulent time around the year 1000. P. 99.

Diplomas of the last decades prior to the Norman Conquest. P. 102.

Diplomas and land-ownership: bookland and folkland. P. 104.

The diplomas as a historical source. P. 120.

Boundary clauses. P. 121.

Economy. P. 124.

Lists of witnesses. P. 124.

Literacy and functions of writing. P. 126.

Royal charters as a source on the history of ideas and culture. P. 127.

Writs. P. 129.

Structure, appearance, general characteristics. P. 129.

Content and formulaic. P. 133.

The origin and the connection with the royal chancery. P. 135.

Causes of emergence. P. 141.

From “theory” to “practice”: royal charters in real life. P. 145.

Production. P. 145.

Сeremony and performativeness. P. 146.

Storage. P. 149.

Practical uses. P. 150.

Appendix. Russian equivalents of some main English terms of Anglo-Saxon diplomatic. P. 153.

References. P. 154.


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http:// (25.12.2021).


Онлайн-ресурсы / Online resources

Anglo-Saxon Cluster // (3.10.2021; на момент написания статьи ресурс остановлен).

ASChart – Anglo-Saxon Charters // (3.10.2021).

Bosworth–Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary online // (8.07.2022).

DOE – Dictionary of Old English: A to I online / Ed. A. Cameron, A. C. Amos, A. diPaolo Healey et al. Dictionary Toronto: Dictionary of Old English Project, 2018 // (3.10.2021).

DEEDS – Documents of Early England Data Set // (3.10.2021).

Electronic Kemble // (3.10.2021; на момент написания статьи ресурс работает нестабильно; прежние адреса:;

England c. 450–1066 in a Nutshell // (3.10.2021; на момент написания статьи тексты грамот по-прежнему доступны при введении в адресную строку полного URL-адреса:, где после последнего «=» вводится номер грамоты по списку Сойера).

LangScape — The Language of Landscape // (3.10.2021; на момент написания статьи работает нестабильно, карты не отображаются).

LASC — Languages of Anglo-Saxon Charters // (3.10.2021).

PASE — Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England // (14.02.2022).

Revisited Sawyer // (3.10.2021; на момент написания статьи ресурс не поддерживается).

S – The Electronic Sawyer // (3.10.2021; на момент написания статьи не поддерживается машинный поиск по номерам Сойера, Бёрча и Кембла).

Published on  December 12th, 2023