Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962. First edition. Octavo, original blue cloth, original dust jacket. A nearly-fine copy. Item #403
"BEDE THE VENERABLE IS THE FIRST GREAT ENGLISHMAN OF WHOM WE CAN FORM A CLEAR PERSONAL PICTURE" First edition of David Knowles's rewarding portraits of twenty-five great minds spanning a thousand years of medieval Christendom. Dom David Knowles was an exclaustrated Benedictine monk and Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. This collection of biographical sketches was skillfully selected from his earlier books, The Monastic Order in England (1941) and The Religious Orders in England (1948). The exceptions, Bede the Venerable and Anselm of Canterbury, were originally prepared for broadcast. The sketches begin with Benedict of Nursia and the lasting influence of his Rule: "The influence of that Rule on the religious and cultural life of the West was enormous. It was never imposed as a code; there was no order to grow from a mustard-seed as did Cîteaux in later centuries. The Rule supplanted other rules or gained a foothold alongside of them simply by reason of its intrinsic excellence and practicability; it gradually came to colour the whole of Western monachism as a powerful chemical ingredient might gradually colour and saturate a liquid." The biographies are illustrated with eight plates, including two of the aerial views familiar to readers of Knowles's Monastic Sites from the Air: I. Jarrow, II. St Dunstan, III. Henry of Blois, IV. St Francis of Assisi, V. Thomas de la Mare, VI. Finchale Priory, VII. John Houghton, VIII. Evesham Abbey. In a dust jacket with cover illustration by Kenneth Farnhill (depicting John Houghton) and with a brief Foreword by Knowles, dated "Peterhouse/April1961." An excellent introduction to the work of this talented historian.