With the publication of two volumes of the "Episcopal Registers of the Diocese of Exeter," under the editorship of Archdeacon Randolph, the importance of this class of Church record has been clearly established; and, following the excellent example he has set, the Hampshire Record Society has decided to issue the " Episcopal Registers of the Diocese of Winchester," under the joint editorship of the Dean of Winchester and of Mr. Francis J. Baigent; while the* Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society have in preparation the "Pre-Reformation Episcopal Registers of Carlislc." It is earnestly to be hoped that equally capable scholars may be found to edit the registers of some of the other dioceses, of which an interesting summary will be found in Bishop Stubbs' "Episcopal Succession in England" (x-xii.), where the bulk of these registers is described as being "occupied with the records of institutions to benefices, acts of Consistory Courts, and lists of persons ordained, to which in many instances important wills are annexed."
It is with "institutions to benefices" since the Reformation that the present work is to be exclusively concerned; and where the Bishop's Certificates of institution fail the Composition-books have been laid under contribution.
Here it may be pertinent to explain the significance of Bishops Certificates and Composition-books. The Bishop of each diocese was required to certify periodically to the office of First-fruits in the Court of Exchequer the particulars of all institutions made in his diocese in order that those livings which were chargeable with First-fruits should be compounded for under 26 Hen. VIII., cap. iii., sec. 2 (Ecton, 6o9). It follows, therefore, that where the Bishops' Certificates are missing, the Composition-books supply the names of the incumbents of those livings which were chargeable with First-fruits and at a date closely approximate to their actual institutions.
Dugdale in his "Monasticon," and Tanner in his "Notitia," have written the history of the monastic houses, but to Le Neve we are indebted for his "Fasti," which appeared in 1716 containing lists of the chief dignitaries of the Church of England. This important work was however, preceded in 1708 by "Newcourt's Repertorium," the most comprehensive and able work of its kind, "being an ecclesiastical parochial history of the Diocese of London " and including the first printed lists of the patrons and incumbents of the several parish churches in any diocese. For a century this remained the first attempt to record in print the names of the lesser ecclesiastical dignitaries. Sir Thomas Phillipps followed in 182o with a folio volume of the "Institutions for Wiltshire," but, alas! unindexed; and, in our own time Mr. Weaver has shown the way by the publication of an excellent volume of "Somersetshire Incumbents;" while we are promised the "Bedfordshire Incumbents" by Messrs. Cobbe and Blaydes at the end of the year.
The present important Work of Reference, which is the outcome of annotating "Alumni Oxonienses" has been specially compiled from the original records. When completed it will form in ordinary parlance, "a Clergy List" dating from the Reformation, giving not merely the names of incumbents, but also the dates of their institutions or appointments, and will include not only those names of Cathedral dignitaries which appear in Le Neve, but also a very large number of Cathedral dignitaries that do not appear in that work.