Peter of Cornwall's Book of Revelations

Robert Easting and Richard Sharpe

Studies and Texts 184; British Writers 5. 2013. xvi, 616 pp., plus 2 b/w plates
ISBN 978-0-88844-184-3 • Cloth • $150.00

This volume aims to introduce to a wider audience Peter of Cornwall (c.1140–1221), the diligent and methodical compiler of monumental works, of which one, the Liber Reuelationum, preserved uniquely in Lambeth Palace MS 51, is the focus for this study.

NOTE: Co-published with The Bodleian Library (ISBN 978-1-85124-254-2).  Customers in Europe, including the United Kingdom: please order this title from Bodleian Library Publishing.

This is the first book-length study of Peter of Cornwall, prior of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, London, whose Liber Reuelationum (Lambeth Palace Library, MS 51), dated to the year 1200, is a compilation of over 1,100 chapters, excerpted from some 275 Latin texts, dealing with visions of the otherworld and revelatory appearances of God, Christ, Mary, angels, saints, devils, and revenants. Peter’s purpose in collecting such material from saints’ Lives, chronicles, and free-standing vision texts from the first century AD through to his own day was to provide evidence to convince unbelievers of the existence of God, the soul, and life after death. Accounts of new visionary experiences circulating in England in the 1190s doubtless prompted his collection. Like his other large-scale work, Pantheologus, Peter of Cornwall’s Book of Revelations was intended to assist preachers with propagating the fundamentals of the faith. This volume introduces Peter’s life and writings and presents editions with parallel English translations of those parts of the Lambeth manuscript that Peter composed himself. A detailed description of the manuscript is included, and a Calendar identifies the source for each of Peter’s chapters. A bibliography and indices complete this volume, which provides a marvellous resource for scholars interested in the Latin literature of medieval dreams, visionary experience, and the eschatological concerns of sin, penance, death, the afterlife, and the judgement of the soul.


Robert Easting retired in 2010 from a Personal Chair in English Language and Literature at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where he had taught since 1973. His publications on vision literature include two editions for the Early English Text Society: St Patrick’s Purgatory (1991) and The Revelation of the Monk of Eynsham (2002). He has been a Minor Open Scholar and Senior Scholar, Wadham College, Oxford; Visiting Lecturer in English and American Literature, Keynes College, University of Kent; Visiting Scholar, Wolfson College, Oxford; and Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall, Cambridge.

Richard Sharpe is professor of diplomatic in the University of Oxford and a fellow of Wadham College. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in Classics and Anglo-Saxon, Norse, & Celtic. An assistant editor of the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources for nine years, he is general editor of the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues and has published on medieval books and libraries before 1540 and on the Latin writers of Great Britain and Ireland.


“This volume succeeds admirably as an introduction to the works of Peter of Cornwall, prior of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, London (c. 1140–1221), with a particular focus on his monumental Liber Reuelationum, preserved uniquely in London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 51. The authors blend the old with the new in a series of revised articles and a large selection of editions, translations and discussions of unpublished texts, some unique to the Lambeth manuscript. The heart of this study is the publication of the Calendar, which documents the contents of the entire collection of the Liber Reuelationum. It offers an indispensable guide to the source texts available to Peter and provides access to hundreds of often macabre but edifying tales that remain unedited. Its value as a finding tool is enhanced by three indices that enable the reader to search the Calendar by author, work, and name. In the course of illuminating the various contexts of Peter’s writings, the authors control an impressive span of interdisciplinary scholarship, which ranges over Irish and English monastic records, biblical scholarship, social history, vision literature, and the Cistercian Order in England and on the Continent.”
Christopher McDonough, University of Toronto


“517 000 mots, près de 1100 chapitres, en majorité constitués d’extraits issus d’environ 275 oeuvres distinctes: le Liber revelationum (LR) de Pierre de Cornouailles apparaît comme une compilation hors norme spécifiquement consacrée aux visions et autres théophanies surnaturelles. ... Ce livre, le premier consacré à Pierre, permet de découvrir une oeuvre étonnante – aucune collection de visions n’a atteint une telle ampleur ni un tel éclectisme – et nous offre une fascinante plongée dans la mystique chrétienne médiévale. ... Si l’une ou l’autre répétition s’observe dans les chapitres préliminaires, cette étude apparaît en tous points impeccable, tant par la clarté de son style que sur le plan typographique. Cinq index (des chapitres du LR, des auteurs et des oeuvres exploités par Pierre, des saints, des n° BHL, et un index général reprenant les noms et certains thèmes) permettent une navigation efficace dans l’ouvrage. ... La lecture de ce volume a suscité, on l’aura perçu, notre intérêt et notre enthousiasme. En plus de révéler un auteur, son oeuvre et sa culture littéraire, méconnus jusqu’à présent, ce livre apporte une réelle avancée, une vraie plus-value, pour l’étude des mentalités médiévales, illustrant entre autres la curiosité obsédante pour l’«afterlife», la perméabilité totale entre les mondes visible et spirituel, et le dialogue fantasmé incessant entre les hommes et les êtres célestes, parmi lesquels les saints occupent une place de choix. R. E. et R. S. ont droit à toute notre admiration.”
Fr. De Vriendt, Analecta Bollandiana 134 (2016)

“Peter’s Liber not only illustrates the ecclesiastical landscape in England around the year 1200, it also raises questions of authorship and audience, orality and textuality, and the use of such story collections in religious formation, preaching, and pastoral care. In introducing us to Peter of Cornwall and providing an exemplary edition and translation of the Liber, Robert Easting and Richard Sharpe have established a fascinating foundation for a wealth of future studies.”
Martha G. Newman, Speculum 91/3 (July 2016)

“Although primarily a study of Peter of Cornwall's Book of Revelations, with a partial edition and translation, this volume also offers a fascinating portrait of England around the year 1200, with excursions into the world of oral transmission, scribal practices, book production, textual communities, reading, tithing, unbelief, and the complex interrelationships among nobles, parishes, monasteries and individual families and their members. ... Easting and Sharpe's thorough treatment of Peter of Cornwall's Book of Revelations is a valuable contribution to the study of dreams, visions, ghosts, death, and afterlife in the Middle Ages. It provides a surprising picture of the vast amount of this material available in the twelfth century, and it also provides insights into how this material was circulated and transmitted. The volume also will be of interest to scholars of medieval England for the picture it affords of the workings and relationships among various groups and communities. While the editors do not deploy explicit theoretical methodologies, they do present a firm basis for those who would like to examine Peter and his work using frames such as intentionality, authorial control, author/actor, text and textuality. This is an important resource for twelfth-century England, vision/dream and afterlife studies, as well as textual studies.”
Eileen Gardiner, The Medieval Review 15.02.21


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