Islington’s oldest library book

  • 09
  • Dec

The oldest volume held in Islington’s archives dates to 1569 and it’s an original copy of vestry minutes of the Parish of St James Clerkenwell. This was produced in the 11th year of the reign of Elizabeth I.

Rather like modern council minutes, members of the vestry would meet to discuss how best to collect and spend money from local taxes and other income in the parish. These meetings were recorded or ‘minuted’ – possibly from the Latin possibly directly from the Latin ‘minuta scriptura’, meaning small notes.

The volume’s contents were written in secretary hand. This is a style of European handwriting developed in the early-16th and used also in the following century. Secretary hand was widely used by those whose work comprised hours of writing.

The term vestry was in use until 1900, when it changed to council. The vestry was a room in or a building attached to a church and this is where local ‘vestrymen’ came to discuss the administrative, non-religious business of the parish. Later, dedicated vestry halls were built and these were the forerunners of the modern town hall.

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