MDR uses drop-down lists to promote easier standardized cataloguing and searches. The following list includes the types of material and textual evidence most commonly used by medievalists. Additional information on types of evidence (including stylistic descriptors of artistic evidence) can be found by using the Search Term field at the top of the Search Form.

  • Material Evidence
  • Textual Evidence
    • Accounts: Records of revenues and/or expenses.
    • Advice, Instructional Texts: Texts meant to provide practical guidance on behavior (courtesy books), cooking (such as recipes) or other how-to guides, such as running an estate (agricultural treatises); also manuals of artistic techniques or how to mix paints
    • Biography, Memoirs: A narrative document describing someone’s life. Does not include hagiography but does include autobiographies and memoirs (including ricordanze, livres de raison, personal travel narratives, and commonplace books that record personal details).
    • Charters
    • Chronicles, Annals: Works of history. Annals recite events are arranged by year; chronicles have a more narrative form. Sometimes, medieval historical works are more literary than factual, but if a work claims to be history, it is put in this category.
    • Commentary, Gloss, Exegesis: A text that provides commentary, glosses, or annotations on another text. Works discussing and expounding upon the meaning of specific biblical passages.
    • Compendia: Texts gathered together to serve a common informational purpose, such as bestiaries (describes the physical and allegorical qualities of animals), encyclopedias (usually arranged alphabetically and sometimes thematically), and collections of proverbs or prophecies.
    • Contracts, Property Transactions: A binding agreement between two or more people or entities, including contracts for construction, dowry, loans, apprenticeship, etc. Documents recording grants and purchases, usually of land, but sometimes of other property or rights, including charters, deeds and cartularies.
    • Council Proceedings, Minutes: Proceedings of a formal assembly of clergy (such as a synod) or laity (including parliament, king’s council, town council) called together by a recognized higher authority; can include their discussions, legislation, and inquisitions if formally recorded in their proceedings.
    • Courts: Records of proceedings in all types of courts. Includes depositions, inquisitions, and investigations of wrong-doing by officials.
    • Dictionary, Glossary, Grammar: Word lists, lexicons, or translations/explanations of words into different languages and grammatical treatises composed in the middle ages.
    • Episcopal Registers: Bishops’ registers, correspondence, indulgences, seals, courts, petitions, visitations, ordinations, and other texts composed by or for bishops.
    • Genealogy, Heraldry: Records of people’s ancestry and lineage. Heraldic visitations and drawings of heraldic arms.
    • Hagiography: Primarily narratives about the life of holy men and women written to celebrate their devout life, ascetic practices, good deeds, and miracles. Includes martyrologies, miracle stories, canonization proceedings (which can include depositions from people who witnessed the divine intervention of the person up for sainthood), descriptions of relics of or monuments to particular saints, and devotional tales about the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
    • Legislation: Includes ordinances, statutes, laws promulgated by recognized authorities (church, state, town, village). Includes papal bulls, compilations of church law (such as Gratian), as well as learned discussions of law (such as Bracton and Glanvill), as well as customary law codes (custumals, fueros, maritime law codes, etc…).
    • Letters, Petitions: Correspondence written from one person to another, although the category also includes letters meant to be read by wide audiences. Includes formulary books of sample letters and petitions from one person/group to another.
    • Literature
      • Allegorical: Works in which ideas or concepts are represented/symbolized by characters or events (in literary, visual, or musical form).
      • Comedy, Satire: Literature written with a humorous intent, or ridicules its subject.
      • Didactic: Texts meant to teach a lesson about behavior.
      • Drama: Scripts of plays, can be either prose or verse, sometimes consist more of stage directions than spoken text.
      • Epic, Saga: A long poem or narrative, often based on oral tradition, that celebrates the exploits of a hero or heroes who usually represent the cultural values of a particular group or ‘nation.’
      • Folklore, Legends: Fairy tales, myths, tales of witches.
      • Prose: Any literary work that is written in prose, without a particular metrical structure or rhyme. Often overlaps with other document types/genres.
      • Romance: Verse or prose narrative that idealizes chivalry and is centered on a hero-knight and his noble deeds. Includes chivalric romances and Arthurian romances.
      • Verse: Any literary work that has a verse structure (with a particular metrical structure or rhyming pattern), including verse chronicles, songs and poetry. Often overlaps with other document types/genres.
    • Liturgy: Instructions for carrying out public rites of worship or private devotional practices, including specific music and prayers that follow a liturgical formula. Also includes calendars of feast days, prayers, blessings, and instructions for saying mass or other worship ceremonies.
    • Maps, Plans: Medieval maps, portolans; medieval diagrams of streets, buildings, monastic institutions
    • Medical Works: Treatises on diseases and cures, recipes for cures, herbals.
    • Membership Lists: Names of those belonging to particular groups. Includes lists of citizens, guild members, necrologies.
    • Music: Documents including musical notation or lyrics meant to be sung.
    • Religious Texts
      • Devotional: Guides to pious living, works (such as books of hours, ladders of salvation) for private devotional purposes, literary works meant to stimulate religious contemplation. Can include mystical works meant to be read during meditation or contemplation.
      • Doctrinal: Learned theological works that discuss the principles, laws, and beliefs established by the Church as official dogma on such matters as the nature of the Trinity, Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology (the Eschaton, Last Judgement, Wedding Feast of the Lamb, Eternity), Mariology, the sacraments, and salvation. Includes disputations, summas, glosses on summas, quodlibets, and questiones.
    • Rules: Rules sanctioned for organizations, including monks, military orders, chivalric orders, guilds, etc.
    • Scripture: Bibles in all languages, psalters, picture bibles, and other biblical texts.
    • Sermons, Orations: Homilies or religious instructional speeches, intended to be delivered in public, often as part of a worship service. Also includes sermons circulated in handbooks or formularies for priests to use as models, and commemorative orations (panegyrics) or sermons delivered as eulogies.
    • Surveys: Extents or surveys of the holdings of a particular estate, including polyptyques and inquisitions post mortem.
    • Taxes: Documents relating to the imposition and collection of taxes. Includes tolls and port customs.
    • Treaties: Formal agreements or truces between governments.
    • Treatises: Non-literary texts aimed to inform or persuade that are not Advice/Instructional or Devotional or Doctrinal Religious Texts.
    • Visitations: Non-literary texts aimed to inform or persuade that are not Advice/Instructional or Devotional or Doctrinal Religious Texts.
    • Wills, Inventories: A document stating what should be done with a person’s possessions upon his or her death. Inventories list the deceased’s goods, often room by room; they can also be compiled for debtors