The word clericus—clerk—was one of very wide and rather vague significance, and included not only the various grades of clerks in orders, of whom we have spoken, but also all men who followed any kind of occupation which involved the use of reading and writing; finally, every man who could read might claim the “benefit of clergy,” i.e., the legal immunities of a clerk.
The convent is the name especially appropriate to the body of individuals who composed a religious community.
The whole convent was under the government of the abbot, who, however, was bound to govern according to the rule of the order. Sometimes he was elected by the convent; sometimes the king or some patron had a share in the election. Frequently there were estates attached to the office, distinct from those of the convent; sometimes the abbot had only an allowance out of the convent estates; but always he had great power over the property of the convent, and bad abbots are frequently accused of wasting the property of the house, and enriching their relatives and friends out of it.
Three people making hats in the middle ages. One appears to be a child.
Knight in War-harness, after a Miniature in a Psalter written and illuminated under Louis le Gros
Labouring Colons (Twelfth Century), after a Miniature in a Manuscript of the Ste. Chapelle, of the National Library of Paris.
The system of chaining, as adopted in this country, would allow of the books being readily taken down from the shelves, and laid on the desk for reading. One end of the chain was attached to the middle of the upper edge of the right-hand board; the other to a ring which played on a bar set in front of the shelf on which the book stood. The fore-edge of the books, not the back, was turned forwards. A swivel, usually in the middle of the chain, prevented tangling. The chains varied in length according to the distance of the shelf from the desk. The bar was kept in place by a rather elaborate system of iron-work attached to the end of the bookcase, and secured by a lock which often required two keys—that is, the presence of two officials—to open it. To illustrate this I will shew you a sketch of one of the bookcases in Hereford Cathedral.
Part of a single bookcase in the Library showing a book chained to the bookcase
Another device for combining desk with shelf is to be seen at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and, as these cases were set up after 1626, we have here a curious instance of a deliberate return to ancient forms. There is evidence that there once existed below the shelf a second desk, which could be drawn in and out as required, so that a reader could stand or sit as he pleased, as you will see from the next illustration.
The University of Leiden in Holland adopted a modification of this design, for there the shelf is above the desk, and readers could only stand to use the books
One example at least of these fittings still exists, in the library attached to the church of S. Wallberg, at Zutphen in Holland. This library was built in its present position in 1555, but I suspect that some of the fittings, those namely which are more richly ornamented, were removed from an earlier library. Each of these desks is 9 feet long by 5 feet 6 inches high; and, as you will see directly, a man can sit and read at them very conveniently.
The trebuchet was another war machine used extensively during the Middle Ages. Essentially, it was a seesaw. Weights on the short arm swung the long throwing arm.