Posted by Elizabeth Biggs on 29th March 2017

What about 1539? Starting work on the Priory Library in the Reformation

Hello! I’ve just joined the Durham Priory Library Project as the Zeno Karl Schindler post-doctoral fellow for the next year. I’m excited to be working on the priory library at a time of profound and pretty disorientating change- the sixteenth-century English Reformation. Durham was caught up in a see-saw of religious turmoil, as within twenty years Henry VIII broke with Rome, Edward VI pushed for a more puritan church, Mary I returned to Catholicism, and finally Elizabeth I established her own version of a Protestant church. Each change of monarch meant new ways of worship and new expectations of the cathedrals. Durham had to change or resist. My part of the project will look at how those choices played out in the former priory’s library.   Books that were at Durham in 1539, when the priory was dissolved, have had a variety of fates. At the extremes, some seem to have been lost entirely and some stayed safely in the cathedral. If a medieval book stayed at Durham through the sixteenth century, it’s a fair bet that it’s still here. Scroll down to see examples of the material that the project is currently digitising. Still other books went walkabouts during the sixteenth century and are now known to be elsewhere, including close by at Ushaw College or far away (such as the Lindisfarne Gospels now in the British Library). A few, like this lovely printed copy of Dun Scotus annotated by Thomas Swalwell, have come back to Durham in the last century. (more…)
Posted by Richard Higgins on 26th March 2017

Durham Cathedral Archive – Cartulary 1

Durham Cathedral Archive Cartulary 1

The first of four cartularies produced at Durham Priory in about 1400. The recording of all existing charters in book form as cartularies indicates a sustained campaign at this time to organise the records of the Priory, creating a coherent reference to the property and privileges enjoyed by Durham Priory and her dependent cells. The first cartulary contains documents issued by popes, kings, archbishops, bishops and some local property records. As most original papal charters were destroyed after the dissolution, this is an especially useful record of those grants.


Durham Cathedral Archive Cartulary 1, f.194r (detail)
Durham Cathedral Archive Cartulary 1, f.194r (detail)

This text is the start of a charter grant by King John in 1208 confirming the rights of the knights and free tenants of the diocese of Durham – the people known as the “haliwerfolc” (the holy man’s [i.e. St Cuthbert] folk).

Posted by rh@dplp1 on 15th March 2017

IIIF presentation

Posted by Richard Higgins on 31st August 2016

Duns Scotus on the Sentences

Durham Cathedral Library Incunable 21b

The fourth but only surviving volume of this 1481 edition of John Duns Scotus’ Quaestiones in quattuor libros Sententiarum was printed in Venice. This is a heavily-used copy, with evidence of having been closely studied by several monks of Durham Priory, then passing out of the library into the collection of Sir Thomas Tempest before being re-acquired by Durham Cathedral in the 20th century.

A heavily annotated page from DCL Inc. 21b, Duns Scotus' Commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences
A heavily annotated page from DCL Inc. 21b, Duns Scotus’ Commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences

Posted by Richard Higgins on 21st August 2016

Commentary on the OT books of prophets by St Jerome

Durham Cathedral Library MS B.II.9

A post-Conquest manuscript, written in Normandy and amongst those presented to Durham Priory by William of St Calais. This work contains the commentary on the minor prophetic books of the Old Testament, written by St Jerome at the end of the 4th century.

© 2016 Durham Cathedral Library

As usual the most useful provenance information is to be found at the head of the first page of text. Here we have the early 15th century inscription “Explanacio Jeronimi xij prophetarum . de communi libraria monachorum dunelm’”, telling us that the book was kept in the cloister library at that time. The inscription is preceded by a letter G that appears to have been altered to a T – in the late 14th century catalogue of the Cloister Library the shelfmark is G, but the later and fainter shelfmark in the top right corner is “Pi T”. The earliest inscription is on the second line, “Liber Sancti Cuthbertj de Dunelmo”. The other two inscriptions were written after the dissolution.