John of Tilbury

Part I: 12th Century Scribe & Notary

I have found no date of birth for John; his date of death is given as 'unknown'
March 2006

- List of Sources -
Many websites inexistant at August 2011

II. [Medieval] Materials and Techniques of Manuscript Production

5. Pen
"John of Tilbury, one of the scholars in the household of Thomas Becket in the twelfth century, describes how a clerk taking dictation would need to sharpen his pen so often that he had to have sixty or a hundred quills ready cut and sharpened in advance."

National Court Reporters Association

History of Court Reporting
"The first system of abbreviated writing invented for the use of English-speaking people was that of a monk named John of Tilbury, who published his treatise in 1180. The letters consisted of vertical lines differentiated from each other by short lateral strokes."

A webpage in Spanish
(or click on 'Translate') had illustrations of old shorthand systems, including John of Tilbury's:

Scribes & Illuminators - Early Manuscripts at Eton

Online Exhibition
"The scribe, monastic or secular, used a pen which was made of a bird's flight feather. The feathers of geese were commonly used but small scripts were executed using the quills of crows and ravens."

To read about the preparation of quill pens and the inks, the work of illuminators, process of production, click here:

The previously online exhibition of illuminated manuscripts from the Eton library, was here:

Bologna University

Short Notes
"The foundation of the famous university [1089], the most ancient of the world (the Alma Mater Studiorum), transformed the city into the cultural capital of Europe ..."

Study in Italy

12th Century
"The University of Bologna ... became famous for the study of law ....
Medieval universities ... liberal arts curriculum ... the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic) and the quadrivium (music, astronomy, geometry, and mathematics) ... professional studies of theology, law, or medicine.
... Most ... students and professors were members of religious orders and worked as clerics ... lectures conducted in Latin, the universal language of Europe ... a student completed his studies ... wrote and defended a thesis or dissertation ... awarded either a master or doctor of philosophy degree."


The Medieval University
"... primarily student run, ... students deciding whether to keep professors or fire them. The school was famous for its study of canon law. To go to the University of Bologna and study canon law was a significant achievement."

Google Books Online

Viator, vol. 3

pg. 187
"... a recipe from Constantin's Liber graduum quoted by John of Tilbury, one of Becket's familia, in about 1174 ..."

University of California Press, 1972; ISBN 0520021452, 9780520021457

"Medieval Rhetoric" (by James J. Murphy)

"John of Tilbury. Ars notaria, ed. Valentin Rose in "Ars notaria: Tironische Noten und Stenographie im 12. Jahrhundert." Hermes 8 (1874): 303-26
This is the text of an Ars Notaria (c.1174) by the Englishman John of Tilbury. John includes a discussion of an elementary type of shorthand to be used in transcription."

(University of Toronto Press, 1 April 1989) (80 pages)

"The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: 1100-1400", vol. 2, by Nigel Morgan, Rodney M. Thomson, Lotte Hellinga, Joseph Burney Trapp

pg. 81
"... John of Tilbury, in his Epistola de arte notaria, written c.1174, advises a busy scribe to provide himself with a supply of 60 to 100 pens for a day's work, so that he would not have to waste time with constant sharpening."

Cambridge University Press, 2008; ISBN 052178218X, 9780521782180

"University of Ceylon Review", vol. 12-24

pg. 27
"In 1180 John of Tilbury offered Henri II an Ars Notaria, it is not clear for what purposes.

University of Ceylon, 1954

"From Domesday Book to Magna Carta" (by Austin Lane Poole)

Learning, Literature and Art
"... St. Mary's church and Catte Street [Oxford], the nucleus of the original university, ... an ingenious Oxford doctor of theology, identified as John of Tilbury, one of the eruditi who followed Thomas Becket into exile, had invented a system of shorthand ..."

(Oxford University Press, 1 September 1993) (560 pages - for children)

"The Law of Treason in England in the Later Middle Ages" (by J. G. Bellamy)

The Medieval Concept of Treason
"From the time of Archbishop Theobald, perhaps even before, Englishmen went abroad to study Roman law. Bologna was especially favoured and some, like John of Tilbury ..., were probably good enough to teach there ..."

(Cambridge University Press, 1 January 2004) (244 pages - for children)

"Thomas Becket" (by Frank Barlow)

pg. 31
"Another of the seniors was John of Tilbury, scribe and notary."
pg. 32
"at Rheims, in a letter to John of Tilbury recalled their idyllic days under Theobald.
'What with philosophic speculations, legal business, services to ...'"
pg. 78
"Likewise only two on the list, John of Salisbury and John of Tilbury, can be proved to have been Thomas's fellows in the household of Archbishop Theobald. ..."
pg. 79
"And lastly, John of Tilbury is described by Herbert as an excellent scribe. He was probably the author of Ars Notaria Aristotelis ..."
pg. 81
"Robert Foliot, archdeacon of Oxford, witnesses three; Herbert of Bosham, John of Tilbury and William of Leicester attest twice. ..."
pg. 84
"... and five archiepiscopal clerks, Robert Foliot, archdeacon of Oxford, John of Tilbury and three others.' ..."

(University of California Press, 16 August 1990) (384 pages)

"The life and letters of Thomas Becket", vol. 2

pg. 388-9
Catalogue of the Learned Men in the Court of the Archbishop - from Herbert de Bosham
As I have had frequent occasion in the course of this history to mention the learned men and professors of Thomas, our late lord and glorious martyr, who so zealously, and at their own peril adhered to the holy father whilst he was steering the vessel of the Church through so tempestuous a sea, I have thought it right to set down their blessed names at the end of this narrative, that they may not be lost for ever.
I. First and foremost of all was he the most learned of them all, Thomas himself. And as more learned, so was he more distinguished than they, washing in red wine his robe, and in the blood of the purple grape his mantle. Like his great Master, alone he trod the wine-press, and coming out of Edom with stained garments from Bosra, ascended into heaven. ...
XIII. Next is John Of Tilbury, by birth an Englishman, of much courage and eloquence. Like a learned and ready scribe, he brought forth from his treasure things both new and old; but his feebleness of body and advanced years excused him from following the holy father.

Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians by the Rev. J. A. Giles, D.C.L., late Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford (2 volumes) London, Whittaker and co. Ave Maria Lane, 1846

Note: Thomas a Becket b. London c.1118/20; went into exile in France 1164; returned to England, and was murdered 29 December 1170 at Canterbury.

"John of Salisbury's Entheticus Major and Minor"

pg. 319
"... and his testimony to his old friend, John of Tilbury ...
'Et quidem, ut ad tuos gentiles transeam, non modo Stoici sed etiam Epicurei et omnium philosophantium sectae rerum mundialium contemptum praedicant'..."

(Brill Academic Publishers, 1 January 1987) (616 pages)

If you would like to offer a translation of the above, please e-mail me
replace [AT] by @ and [DOT] by .

"The Eadwine Psalter" (ed. Margaret Gibson, Richard W. Pfaff, T. A. Heslop)

pg. 169
"The Waterworks of Canterbury Cathedral ... associated with Prior Wibert (1153-67) since the Middle Ages. ... fresh water supply ... source was a spring ... at North Holmes ... land had formerly belonged to the Archbishop, ... document granting it to the Cathedral Priory ... date depends on the identification of the grantor, 'T.archiepiscopus' ... Further evidence ... the witness-list, which includes John of Salisbury, Theobald's secretary from 1147, William de Ver, John of Tilbury, and Hugh de Gant, all members of Theobald's court."

(Penn State Press, 1 April 1992) (228 pages)

John of Tilbury

Part II: 12th Century Doctor of Divinity at Oxford, Preacher of London

Was this the same John of Tilbury?
April 2010

Google Books Online

"Biographia Britannica Literaria" by Thomas Wright, 1846

Minor writers during the reigns of Richard I. and John.
1199: John of Tilbury

Royal Society of Literature (Great Britain)

"The English Historical Library in Three Parts" by W. Nicolson, Arch-deacon, (now Bishop) of Carlile, 1714

Describes John of Tilbury as a "London Divine"

London, [Manuscript note on cover: was tranferred to Londonderry in Ireland 1710. Browne Willis.]

"Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts relating to the early History of Great Britain and Ireland, to the End of the Reign of Henry VII." by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, 1865

pg. 482-3
635. John of TILBURY
"TANNER, following PITS, states that John of Tilbury was a doctor of divinity at Oxford, a preacher of London ("concionator Londoninsis"), and was elevated to the episcopal bench, but for what see he did not know. This is evidently an error, as no individual of that name ever held the office of bishop in England. Pits further states that John of Tilbury was included among the learned men of the age in which he lived, though his writings were rare; he nevertheless composed a work entitled Historia Gentis Anglorum, in one book, and some orations, in one book (Liber Concionum). The time of his death is not known, but Pits states that he flourished during the reign of Richard the First, circa 1190."

Published by the Authority of the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury, under the Direction of the Master of the Rolls

website previously at "johnoftilbury_elizabethan.html"