The 38 surviving registers of the Bishops of Winchester (there are several gaps) cover the period 1282 to 1684 (catalogue references 21M65/A1/1-38). They represent the main record series relating to the many different aspects of the bishops' administration of Winchester diocese. All the registers contain a record of the institutions, collations and other clerical appointments made by the bishop and many also contain lists of ordinands. They are usually divided into sections, for example, institutions and collations, ordinations, general memoranda and royal writs. By the end of the period, many of these sections were listed in separate volumes.
The earlier registers tend to take the form of a chronological register and can include items relating to other forms of episcopal business, for instance the issue of licences of various kinds, the visitation of the diocese, the election of heads of religious houses, clerical taxation, the probate of wills, and even sections relating to the administration of the bishops' estates or temporalities. From the mid 16th century entries relating to clerical appointments and ordinations predominate with only occasional items relating to other forms of business.
Several registers have been published. The two registers of William Edington (1346-1366) covering the period of the Black Death and its aftermath have been translated into English and published in the Hampshire Record Series.
Following 1684 there is a large gap in the series until the first act book in 1761, though institution registers survive for 1697-1716 and 1734-1736 (21M65/E4/1-3) and a draft act book from 1743 (see below).
The Act books (21M65/A2/1- onwards) succeeded the Bishops’ registers in terms of recording institutions, collations and other clerical appointments, and also the issue of licences to curates, lecturers, preachers etc., and lists of ordinands. The series starts with a draft act book dated 1743-1767 followed by the main series starting in 1761 and continuing in an unbroken run to the present day.