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Pipe roll terminology

The pipe rolls are formulaic and repetitive. The clerks who wrote them naturally wanted to save time and effort, so they used set formulae which could be greatly abbreviated. The rolls were not intended to be read outside the Exchequer, so it mattered little if they were not immediately comprehensible to outsiders, unfamiliar with Exchequer terminology. Unfortunately, the same attitude seems to have affected the Pipe Roll Society in the past: some of these abbreviations have also been adopted in the pipe rolls in print, not always consistently, and they were often published without any explanation of their meaning. The most common abbreviations encountered in print are:

li., m., s., d. pounds, marks, shillings, pence

r.c. de reddit compotum de (accounts for)

In thes. lib. In thesauro liberavit (has paid into the Treasury)

Et Q.E. Et quietus est (is quit, has paid in full)

R. Rex

vic. vicecomes (sheriff)

f. filius, filia

dim. half (as in dim. m. for half a mark)

bl. blancus

num. numero

The abbreviations recording debts and payment, and the last two terms, require further explanation - see below.

The original pipe rolls used many other abbreviations, most of which (apart from surnames and place names) are silently expanded in the later printed editions. Recent Pipe Roll Society volumes use a number of other conventions, involving parentheses and superscript letters, to indicate insertions and deletions; these conventions are neither explained nor consistent. They also use italics to indicate text which was added to the original pipe roll at a later date.

Early editions, up to 1900, used record type, an attempt to represent the abbreviations of medieval manuscripts in typographical form. The result is unsatisfactory, being repulsive at first sight, and requiring some familiarity before the texts become comprehensible - the Table of Abbreviations in the 1884 Introduction to the Study of the Pipe Rolls occupies 25 pages.