Besides the books preserved in libraries, the early laws and decrees of the chapters of the Order offer information about other kinds of books kept in Augustinian houses in the late Middle Ages.
The liturgical books (i.e. those used in worship), for example, were to be kept in the sacristy. The books of government (i.e., the Augustinian Constitutions and capitular definitions) were under the care of the prior of each house.
The sacristan and procurator had to give monthly reports to the conventual chapter on the record books they kept on receipts, expenditures, and debts. Each community possessed a Liber professionum (a Register of Professions), in which the religious profession of each member was publicly recorded as prescribed by the General Chapter of 1368.
The superiors of the provinces were obligated to carefully safeguard the bulls and privileges related to the province or individual houses. They were likewise obliged to keep three different kinds of record books. The first listed the transgressions which the superior had not been able to punish (being always mindful of the norm in the Rule of St Augustine: to have "love for the person and hatred for the sin").
The transgression and pertinent information were to be recorded, along with the reason for the delay in the punishment. This was done so that punishment might be applied at an opportune time.
A "complete and clear" inventory of all the goods of every house of an Augustinian Province was also to be maintained. Finally, "a large book was to be kept in which were written the expenses and receipts of each community of the province. This book was to be handed over to the newly elected Provincial at the Provincial Chapter.
The definitors (elected delegates)' of the General Chapter of 1497 ordered the new superior of the Order to draw up a Liber Ordinis (“Book of the Order”) with all due haste. In it must be recorded all the provinces and observantine congregations within the Order, including a listing of the various houses. "The most reverend father general will always have this book in his possession." Such a book (also now in electronic form) is still current practice.
Another step in the direction of the catalogues of the modern age was the directive sent by Prior General Giles of Viterbo O.S.A. in October 1512. It requested all superiors of the Provinces to send to the Prior General a written list of "the names of the friars of each community."
Unfortunately there are no extant examples of these books or catalogues that were prescribed in 1497 and 1512, and this explains the lack of documentation on the number of Augustinians during this period of the Middle Ages.
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For a number of reasons, a new era in the history of libraries developed during the period from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Learning was more widespread, university centres increased, the mendicant friars put great emphasis on studies of all kinds, including secular subjects, and the cost of books decreased because of the use of paper in place of the traditional parchment.
The Augustinians favoured the development of libraries in their houses. In this they followed the example of the older mendicant orders, and probably were aware of what the superior general of the Dominicans, Humbert of Romans, had written about the importance of libraries.
No doubt they also were influenced by the example of St Augustine and the admonitions in his Rule, about the care and use of the library: "Those who have the care of books should serve their brothers with willingness. Books are to be requested at a fixed hour each day and anyone coming outside that hour is not to receive them."
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