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A cartulary or chartulary (pronounced /ˈkɑrtjʊlɛəri/, Latin: cartularium or chartularium), also called Pancarta and Codex Diplomaticus, is a medieval manuscript volume or roll (rotulus) containing transcriptions of original documents relating to the foundation, privileges and legal rights of ecclesiastical establishments, municipal corporations, industrial associations, institutions of learning and private families. The term is also, though less appropriately, applied to collections of original documents bound in one volume or attached to one another so as to form a roll. The word is formed from two Latin words, for a collection of charters viz. an officer in charge of it.

The allusion of Gregory of Tours to chartarum tomi in the sixth century is commonly taken to refer to cartularies; the oldest, however, that have come down to us belong to the tenth century.[1] Those from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries are very numerous.

Sometimes the copyist of the cartulary reproduced the original document with literary exactness. Sometimes, however, he took liberties with the text to the extent of modifying the phraseology, modernizing proper names of persons or places, and even changing the substance of the meaning for some such purpose as to extend the scope of the privileges or immunities which the document granted. The value of a cartulary as a historical document depends not only on the extent to which it reproduces the substantial meaning of the original, but also, if edited, on the clues it contains to the motivation for changes made under a new set of historical circumstances. These questions must be settled by the well-known canons of historical criticism. Generally speaking, a cartulary, attested by the signatures or marks of a number of prominent individuals, ranks as a public document possessing greater value than a private letter or the narrative of an annalist.

We have no complete inventory of the cartularies of the various institutions of the Middle Ages, but many cartularies of medieval monasteries and churches have been published, more or less completely. The "Catalogue général des cartulaires des archives départementales" (Paris, 1847) and the "Inventaire des cartulaires" etc. (Paris, 1878–9) are the chief sources of information regarding the cartularies of medieval France. For the principal English (printed) cartularies, see Gross, "Sources and Literature of English History," etc. (London, 1900), 204–7 and 402–67. The important cartulary of the University of Paris was edited by Father Denifle, O.P., and M. Chatelain, "Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis" (Paris, 1889, sqq).


The late Roman/Byzantine chartularius was an administrative and fiscal official. In the Greek Orthodox Church, the corresponding position was called chartophylax.

This title was also given to an ancient officer in the Roman Church, who had the care of charters and papers relating to public affairs. The chartulary presided in ecclesiastical judgments, in lieu of the Pope.

List of cartularies


  1. "Record-keeping in eleventh-century Worcester": "The early Worcester archive include texts of over 200 acta... in addition, there are transcripts of at least another 57 pre-conquest single-sheet acta now lost."


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