Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Twiss, Travers, ed., "The Black Book of the Admiralty," in Monumenta Juridica. The Black Book of the Admiralty, Vol I (London: Longman (Rolls Series, no. 55); in vol. I of 4 vols.) Read this source online

Text name(s): Black Book of the Admiralty, and the Laws of Oleron

Number of pages of primary source text: 472


Dates: 1300 - 1599

Archival Reference: PRO HC12/1 (rediscovered 1870s)

Original Language(s): 

  • Anglo-Norman
  • English - Middle English
  • Latin


  • Translated into English.
  • Original language included.

Translation Comments: facing page-mostly Anglo-Norman

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • England
  • France

County/Region: Queensborough

Record Types: 

  • Court Roll
  • Custumal
  • Law - Legislation

Subject Headings: 

  • Economy - Trade
  • Government
  • Law - Secular
  • Maritime
  • Nobility / Gentry
  • Royalty / Monarchs
  • Towns / Cities
  • Travel / Pilgrimage
  • War - Chivalry
  • War - Military History


  • Index
  • Glossary
  • Appendix
  • Introduction


The Black Book is a procedural manual, written c. 1450 (but containing much earlier material) for the lord high admiral that includes a compilation of maritime laws, customs, and court decisions. It was lost by 1808 so Twiss reconstructed it from later transcripts and related sources. But it was rediscovered by the time vol. 4 was printed, although Twiss makes little of this fact, and prints corrections to his reconstruction in vol. IV (pp. 132-44) without any comment. It contains a copy of The Laws of Oleron, maritime customs established by the early 14c that governed maritime disputes in England and most parts of northern Europe. Vol. I contains: Introduction; the Black Book including the Laws of Oleron (88-13, in Anglo-Norman); Inquisition taken at Queenborough in 1375 on customs of the admiralty (132-77, in Anglo-Norman); Treatise on procedure in admiralty court (178-220, in Latin); Articles of inquiry in admiralty court (221-45, in Latin); Documents connected with Admiralty of John Holland, 1443-6 (246-81, Latin and AN); Statues and ordinances of war (282-99, probably a ME translation of Latin version temp Hen. V) (ME version on pp. 459-72); Order of battle in the court of chivalry (300-44, in AN, but not part of original Black Book). The Appendix contains Documents connected with Admiralty of Th. Beaufort from 1407-26 (347-94, in Latin); Fees and profits pertaining to office of Admiral (396-411, in AN); Extracts from Statutes of the Realm on Admiralty jurisdiction (412-19, in AN); Ordinances of Philip de Valois (1338) for expedition to conquer England (420-29, in AN); Ordinance (1373) of Charles V on jurisdiction of French admiralty (430-58, in AN). Index (pp. 475-91).

Introduction Summary: 

Introduction (ix-xciii) in Vol. I contains manuscripts consulted, comments on selections, and a table of subjects.

Cataloger: MAK