London administrators, like those in other medieval towns, often compiled miscellanies containing copies or records (such as charters, customs, ordinances, and court decisions) that they considered important for remembering and defending the privileges of the town. As the capital city in Britain, London had a particularly large number of these miscellanies. Especially important were the custumals, which recorded the customs and traditions regarding tolls, trading regulations, the privileges of freemen or burgesses, court procedures, inheritance, and many other aspects of London civic life. For an assessment of these compilations as a genre (and from a literary point of view), see: Arthur Bahr, Fragments and Assemblages: Forming Compilations of Medieval London (Chicago, 2013).
Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis, 3 vols. In 4, ed. H. T. Riley, Rolls Series (London, 1859-61) on Haithi Trust. Includes several London custumals. (1) Volume I contains Liber Albus (on Gallica and Google books) compiled before 1419 by the town clerk, John Carpenter, on the laws and civic regulations of the city of London from Domesday but focusing on the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, written mostly in Latin with some parts in Anglo-Norman French. It also contains charters and ordinances about trade and the procedures to be following in the city courts. A helpful guide is W. Kellaway, “John Carpenter’s Liber Albus,” Guildhall Studies in London History 3:2 (1978): 67-84. See also the English translation in Liber Albus: The White Book of the City of London, ed. H. T. Riley (London, 1861) on archive.org, Haithi Trust, and Google books. (2) Volume II contains Liber Custumarum compiled in the early fourteenth century, which includes documents relating to trade, court procedure, and a survey or ‘view’ of the lanes leading to the Thames river dating from 1343, among many other items (part I and part ii on archive.org and Google Books part I and part ii). (3) Volume III includes Liber Horn (on archive.org and Google books ) a miscellaneous collection of laws assembled c. 1320 by the London chamberlain, Andrew Horn, along with some early coroner’s proceedings; this volume also contains an English translation of the Anglo-Norman passages in the Liber Albus, glossaries, appendices, and an index.
Borough Customs, ed. M. Bateson, Selden Society 18, 21, (London, 1904-06), on Haithi Trust (also archive.org and vol. 2 and Google books vol. 2). Still the best guide to the local practices of court procedure, inheritance, in different medieval towns. Each volume has an extensive introduction. The main drawback is that Bateson extracted customs under thematic headings so there is no way to see the whole custumal; to find the London entries, consult the index of each volume. For the London sources used by Bateson, see vol. 1, xxxvii-xxxix. They include not only the Liber Albus, but also Ricart’s calendar, a compilation done in 1479-1506 by Bristol’s town clerk which included extracts from a book of Henry Darcy, mayor of London (which in turn relied heavily on the custumal of London town clerk, John Carpenter (c 1419) in the Liber Albus); Robert Ricart, The Maire of Bristowe is Kalendar, ed. L Toulmin Smith, Camden Society, n.s., 5 (1872) now available in a fuller edition by the Bristol Record Society 67, ed. P. Fleming (2015).
“A London Municipal Collection of the Reign of John,” by M. Bateson, The English Historical Review, 17: 67 (1902): 480-511. Analyzes the content of BL Additional Ms. 14252, extracts of which are in her Borough Customs. A collection compiled c. 1206-1216, probably by a Londoner. The article summarizes the content of each folio, prints some material in Latin (such as a list of rents between Thames St and the banks of the river), some material in French (including London laws on foreign merchants from the Liber Ordinacionum, an unprinted compilation), and gives detailed summaries in English of other sections (such as the London laws on court procedures).
Letter Books A-K Calendar of Letter-Books Preserved Among the Archives of the Corporation of the City of London at the Guildhall, ed. R. R. Sharpe, 11 vols (A-L) (London, 1899-1912). English calendar of the entries in the eleven extant medieval Letter Books, which contain much miscellaneous business of the city of London, including numerous debt recognizances (especially with merchants of Gascony and Spain), deeds, ordinances, and the assize of bread. They also contain considerable information on the activities of the city Chamberlain (responsible for handling most of the city’s finances); the pre fifteenth-century proceedings in the Court of Common Council and the Court of Aldermen. The memoranda are often recorded out of chronological order by a variety of clerks, but each volume largely relates to a specific period, as follows (links go to archive.org) : A: 1275-1298; B: 1275-1313; C: 1291-1309; D: 1309-1314; E: 1314-1337; F: 1337-1352; G: 1352-1375; H: 1375-1399; I: 1400-1422; K: 1422-1461; L: 1461-97. Letter Book J was lost by c. 1541. Later Town Clerks of London drew heavily on the Letter Books when drawing up their compilations of London customs and ordinances (such as the Liber Horn and Liber Albus), which in turn were used by many of the London chroniclers. Digital editions are available on BHO and Google Books and electronic pdfs on the subscription-based MEMSO.
Memorials of London and London Life in the XIIIth, XIVth and XVth Centuries, ed. H. T. Riley (London, 1868). A modern compilation of translations of key texts from the Letter Books (often in a more complete form than in the printed volumes), organized chronologically with a detailed table of contents, in a massive volume of 706 pages. The Introduction notes early references to wards and streets, to trades, names and surnames, tavern signs, and miscellaneous issues, many relating to trade. The subjects chosen vary widely, but there is especially good coverage of craft regulations and charters and what could be called quality of life issues, such as maintaining safe streets, a clean environment, and fair trade. There are also records dealing with civic administration, including a list of the men elected from each ward to the first Common Council in 1347. On archive.org, BHO, and Haith Trust.