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Taxster, John de (DNB00)

TAXSTER or TAYSTER, JOHN de (d. 1265?), chronicler, was a monk of the Benedictine abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, where he received the monastic habit on St. Edmund's day (20 Nov.) 1244. This information is derived from the sole passage in his chronicle of which he speaks of himself. One manuscript spells the name Tayster, the other Taxster. He wrote a chronicle beginning with the creation of the world and terminating in 1265, which latter date is generally considered to be that of his death. The early part of the chronicle is of no value. It is mainly compiled from Florence of Worcester (whose chronology it follows), William of Malmesbury, and Ralph de Diceto, with a few brief excerpts from the St. Edmund's annals. For the twelfth century Taxster follows Diceto, Hoveden, and the ‘Annals of St. Edmund's’ up to 1212 (published by Dr. Liebermann in his ‘Ungedruckte Anglo-Normannische Geschichtsquellen’), and perhaps a lost continuation of the same source. Dr. Liebermann denies Hardy's contention that he used the St. Albans chronicles (Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscript Materials of British History, iii. 167). Towards the middle of the thirteenth century Taxster's chronicle becomes more valuable, original, and copious. He is a strong partisan of Simon de Montfort.

Taxster's chronicle stands by itself in two manuscripts only. They are Cottonian MS. Julius A. 1 in the British Museum, and Arundelian MS. 6 in the library of the college of arms. These alone contain the autobiographical passage already quoted. The Arundelian codex was written about the end of the thirteenth century, and is not the archetype. The Cottonian manuscript, though of the fourteenth century, is not copied from the college of arms manuscript, but has original value, and often preserves a better reading. Taxster's work was made the basis of several subsequent compilations, all composed within the eastern counties. Of these the most important are those of John Eversden or Everisden [q. v.], John de Oxenedes [q. v.], and Bartholomew Cotton [q. v.] Some of the manuscripts of these chroniclers are important in establishing the text of Taxster's own work, which is embedded in them. The early part of Taxster has never been printed, but in 1849 Benjamin Thorpe [q. v.] published the part between 1173 and 1265 in the second volume of his edition of Florence of Worcester for the English Historical Society. Thorpe unluckily followed a manuscript at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (No. 92), which belonged to the monks of Peterborough, and which, though closely reproducing Taxster as a rule, omitted much of the St. Edmund's local matter, and inserted Peterborough details in its stead. Thorpe also printed the continuation of Taxster ascribed to Everisden, but described the whole as a continuation of Florence of Worcester, though he knew that Taxster was the author of the portion between 1152 and 1265 (Preface, p. x). Luard, the editor of Cotton in the Rolls Series, has pointed out the deficiencies of Thorpe's manuscript, and has given in pp. 137–40 a better text of Taxter's chronicle for the years 1258 to 1263, from which period Cotton's narrative is a simple transcript of the work of the monk of Bury. Dr. Liebermann has extracted the passages of Taxster which bear on German affairs in Pertz's ‘Monumenta Germaniæ, Scriptores,’ xxviii. 586–91, prefacing them (pp. 584–5) with a short but valuable introduction, which collects all that is known about Taxster, his sources and his manuscripts. Some further criticisms are given by Dr. Liebermann in his ‘Ungedruckte Anglo-Normannische Geschichtsquellen,’ pp. 97–107. The manuscripts are also described in T. D. Hardy's ‘Catalogue of Manuscript Materials of British History,’ iii. 167–8, 242, 261. Nothing further is added in Tanner's ‘Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica,’ pp. 705–706.

[Authorities cited in the text.]

T. F. T.