Dr. Philomena Connolly (1949-2002) was Ireland’s foremost palaeographer and was an archivist at the National Archives of Ireland for more than 30 years. She was an advocate for the publication of medieval and early modern records in order to bring them to a wider audience and as well as editing The Dublin Guild Merchant Roll 1190-1265, which was published by Dublin Corporation in 1992, she also published Irish Exchequer Payments, 1270-1446 (1998, PRO London) and The Statute Rolls of the Irish Parliament, Richard III to Henry VIII (May 2002). Her early death at the age of only 53 was an irreparable loss to Irish archives and historiography.
In June 1866, Dublin Corporation invited the historian John T. Gilbert to inspect its archives and make recommendations on the correct method of storing and cataloguing the material. In the course of this inspection, Gilbert discovered the Guild Merchant Roll, wrapped together with the Roll of Free Citizens of Dublin "in an obscure recess of the then unarranged Muniment-room" in City Hall1. This is the first reference to the Guild Merchant Roll, which is not mentioned in any earlier inventories of the municipal archives, such as the Recorder's Book, prepared in 1667. These inventories, however, concerned primarily with legal documents and did not include other material known to have been in the Corporation's possession such as the Assembly Rolls. The Guild Merchant Roll might well have formed part of the municipal archives from an early date, and the fact that Gilbert found it wrapped together with the Roll of Free Citizens tends to support this theory. Alternatively, it might originally have been part of the archives of the Dublin Guild of Merchants which was abolished in 1841. There is no record of any formal transfer of the roll to the Corporation by the guild or its agents, but prior to 1797 the guild's archives were stored in the Tholsel and the roll might have been placed accidently with the municipal archives which were in the same building. The Guild Merchant Roll remained in the muniment room in City Hall until 1954 when a portion of the Corporation's archives, including membranes 10 to 42 of the roll, were transferred to the Public Record Office of Ireland on temporary deposit; membranes 1 to 9 and the Roll of Free Citizens remained in City Hall. In 1982 these Corporation records were all returned to the new Archives Division at City Hall.
Sir John Gilbert recognised the value of his discovery and printed membranes 1 to 6, 15, 37 and 38 together with the roll of Free Citizens in his Historic and Municipel Documents of Ireland, 1172-13202. Dublin Corporation was aware that only part of the Guild Merchant Roll had been published by Gilbert and it was decided to issue a complete edition of the Roll to mark the Corporation's 800th anniversary in 1992. Although the Roll of Free Citizens had been printed in full by Gilbert, it was decided to include it in the present volume because of the close links between the two rolls and the fact that the full text of the Guild Merchant Roll establishes the sequence of entries on the Roll of Free Citizens which had been wrongly ordered by Gilbert.
The Guild Merchant Roll as it survives today consists of 43 membranes numbered 1 to 42 with the number 31 being used twice. It appears that this numbering was done in the 19th century, possibly by Gilbert when he was transcribing portions for publication; there is no sign of any earlier numbering of the membranes. The roll was once longer as there is physical evidence of further membranes having been attached to the top of the present m. 1 and to the bottom of the present m. 42, though there is no indication of the roll's original size3. The 43 membranes are at present in 6 rolls consisting of mm. 1-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-26, 27-40 and 41-42, the membranes being joined end to end with either vellum thongs or thread. There is evidence that these originally formed a single roll. The bottom of m. 9 and to top portion of m. 13 are missing and the condition of the membranes varies, some names being illegible due to staining and rubbing.
The membranes are written on both sides up to m. 14; from then on they are written on the front only. The names are written in double columns which are not aligned except on m. 8 where horizontal lines are ruled. It seems that the left hand column of each membrane was written first and then the right. There are several marginal drawings which have been noted in the text at the point where they occur and which are reproduced in the photographs. It appears that mm. 1-6 were laced together before the writing was begun and the regularity of the writing on these membranes suggests that they were copied from another source. In later membranes changes in the hand and ink suggest that new entries were made singly or in small groups, presumably corresponding to entries into the guild. Each name is followed by a number of vertical strokes and the word Sol', Sold' or Solid'. implying that these were the number of shillings entrance money paid or payable by the person concerned. It appears that the number of strokes was originally entered as 9, possibly before the name was entered and that this figure could be added to with additional strokes or reduced by deliberate erasure, the top half of the final stroke being erased to denote half a shilling or six pence. Although the standard was 9 shillings the sum could be as high as 11½ or as low as 1. No reason is given for variations. This system was presumably adopted because of the ease of making changes in the amount as the use of roman numerals would have necessitated complete erasure and rewriting. It was used on the roll up to m. 16 after which the strokes are written cursively, not aligned with the individual names and the erasure system is not used, implying either that 9 shillings was the norm with no exceptions or that the entries in this column were meaningless. After m. 26 there are no further entries relating to sums of money. On mm. 5 and 6 there are a number of annotations concerning how much was actually paid or owing to individuals and the words dimidium introitus occur opposite several names. There are several cases of names being deliberately erased or struck through, presumably denoting that the person concerned was removed from membership.
Since the earliest membranes are missing we have no idea whether there was originally a heading, though it would seem likely that there was. The first heading that occurs on the roll is Tempore Jurdani clerici on m. 114. The torn head of m. 13 contains the words Anno proximo post T[… intra]verunt hii subscripti in Gillemarcaturam D[ublinie…]. From m. 13 onwards there are annual headings where the formula used is Hii subscripti intraverunt in Gillermercaturam X et Y existentibus prepositis5. The first instance of dating by regnal year (10 Henry III) occurs in m. 15, though the use of the regnal year does not become standard until m. 37 (40 Henry III). There is some confusion in the use of regnal years caused by the fact that the regnal year began on 28 October while the provosts held office for a year from Michaelmas (29 September). Thus 40 Henry III should be 41 and the same adjustment should be made in the case of the regnal years 41, 43, 44 and 48. This also accounts for the fact that two years, 1245-6 and 1246-7 were both described as regnal year 30. The correct calendar years are shown in the transcript.
Although two entries refer to the members being admitted ad festum Michaelis it is unlikely that there was a single occasion in the year on which members were admitted. The different hands and inks used indicate that the entries were made at different times, either singly or in groups, presumably in the course of the year. In mm. 1-6, which appear to have been copied from another source, two hands occur, one being responsible for the front of these membranes as far as the right hand column of m. 4 (4/B) where the second hand takes over and continues to the end of m. 6/B. This second hand writes the dorse of these six membranes and also makes corrections and additions to the parts written by the first hand.
In this transcript, the existing membrane numbers have been retained, with the two membranes numbered 31 being denoted as 31 (i) and 31 (ii), and he left and right columns of each membrane being denoted by /A and /B respectively. The membranes are printed here in the order in which the roll was originally constructed. The sequence of the entries on mm. 1-6 indicates that the front of the six joined membranes was written first, the left column followed by the right, and then the dorse in the same way. From m. 7 to m. 13, the front of each membrane was written first, followed by the dorse and then continued, if necessary, on the front of the following membrane. The strange sequence of entries on mm. 13-14 is probably explained by the scribe writing m. 13 in the normal way, joining on m. 14 and continuing by mistake on dorse of m. 14 instead of on the front. When the dorse of m. 14 was full, he turned the roll over and continued on the front of m. 14. From then on the writing occurs on the front of the roll only.
Because of the inconsistent use of capitals in the original, they have been standardised in the transcript. Capitals are used for forenames and placenames and also for adjectives and occupations as these may have been regarded as surnames. Abbreviations have been extended silently with a few exceptions. Placenames which are abbreviated in the original are extended only when it is certain that a Latin form of the name is being used; many are left unextended as it is not clear whether the scribe intended the Latin, French or English form. The same is true of occupations. Insertions, erasures and alterations have been noted where they occur in the text. The sums of money denoted by vertical strokes have been written as arabic numerals and the half strokes written as ½. They are no long aligned with names from m. 16 onwards and so have been omitted in the transcript.