Forum Auctions, relative newcomers to the antiquarian book trade, operate from a Victorian building close to Battersea Park.
Lot No 1 in their pre-Christmas book and manuscript sale when I visited was a remarkable Scottish document dating back nearly 1000 years – an unpublished and hitherto unrecorded manuscript charter from one of Scotland’s ancient kings to a laird of Montrose.
William I was known as William the Lion and was King of Scots between roughly 1142 and 1214.
The charter was granted by William to his clerk Helyas de Munros (ie Elias of Montrose) for rights of passage and the land of Alan close by. It granted the ground to Elias and his heirs for an annual rent of two marks of silver. The rent was payable in halves, at Pentecost and Martinmas.
The charter was witnessed by Matthew, Bishop of Aberdeen (1172-1199), Andrew, Bishop of Caithness (d.1184), Walter de Bidun, (Chancellor from 1171; died as Bishop Elect of Dunkeld 1178), Richard de Morevill, Constable (d.1189 or 1190), Walter FitzAlan (Steward of William I, d.1177), William de Veteri Ponte (or Vieuxpont), Walter Oliffard the Elder, royal justice, and five others.
The 14-line manuscript charter was written in Latin on vellum between 1172 and 1177 in a fine early gothic documentary cursive hand with elaborately flourished ascenders and descenders. Its original seal, however, had become detached at some point over its nine centuries of survival.
The grantee, Elias of Montrose, is almost unknown today, but he was doubtless a man of substance – the remarkable set of witnesses is one sign of his status.
A rare royal relic, the charter was bid to a three-times estimate £11,000.
Picture: William I charter, £11,000 (Forum Auctions).