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Medieval land document a rare find

Parchment initially thought to be from 15th century may be even older


A land document, and its accompanying seal and quill sharpener, found in a drawer at Brock University’s special collections was initially thought to date back to the 15th century but experts now believe it is likely at least 200 years older, dating to around 1216.

No one knows how the parchment, written in Latin on animal skin, ended up in special collections. It sat safely curled in a box in a filing cabinet until last year, when staff cleared drawers for more storage space, says David Sharron, head of special collections. The note taped to the box said it was from the 15th century.

Mr. Sharron mentioned the find while having a cup of coffee with Andrew McDonald, professor of history and director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Dr. McDonald contacted Angus Somerville, an associate professor of English language and literature, and Chaplain André Basson.

The researchers know it involves the negotiation of land between Robert de Clopton and his son William in England. They have been scouring medieval archives to identify the eight witnesses mentioned on the undated document. The text facilitates the transfer of about 30 acres between members of a family of “lower-to-mid-level nobility” near Stratford-upon-Avon, says Dr. Somerville.

The parchment is a “once in a career” find, Mr. Sharron says, and the oldest document he knows of in an Ontario university collection.

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