One thing that you quickly get used to digitising manuscripts is that they don’t always have a neat numerical sequence, which makes the whole process of taking photographs page by page (and then linking these all together into the correct sequence) rather more work than it might appear. As you look through many of the manuscripts digitised here what you see may not make sense – is there a page missing here, why are there two folios numbered 2?
That is one of the reasons why we don’t neatly crop the pages, leaving enough of the opposite page visible to give you some proof that we have put it back together as an accurate representation of what survives, and we put a typed folio reference into each image, which represents what the manuscript says. This may just be the result of an accident of history, if pages have been lost, or more commonly a lapse on the part of the person pencilling the numbers onto the parchment.
The most spectacular example of this is in Durham Cathedral Manuscript A.II.17 which has an unprecedented five folio 38s, a feat which has stretched the ingenuity of the foliator. Apparently the result of missing an entire gathering of parchment, later correction has required adding f.38*, f.38², f.38³ and f.38⁴ to the original f.38.
It wouldn’t do to miss f.38v³, though, as this manuscript is the Durham Gospels and that is a full page crucifixion image. This is the Anglo-Saxon era crucifixion, a triumphant Christ on the cross, arms spread as if in benediction, rather than the more familiar pain-wracked figure of the later middle ages. The eyes stare straight back at you.
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.
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)
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).