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Libraries and Special Collections in County Durham

Classics and Ancient History

The region of Durham has a substantial body of material relating to the study of Classics and Ancient History. Durham University is particularly well-endowed with classical texts and ancient artefacts.



Ancient Rome

The Durham University Museum of Archaeology holds a substantial collection of archaeological artefacts charting the history of Roman rule in the North East. A collection of over fifty Roman inscribed and sculptured stones are of key research interest for Roman military scholars, as is the Oswald-Plique collection which comprises nearly 5,000 shards of Gaulish samian pottery.

The Roman material is complemented by the Wiper Photographs, the Romans Collection, and the University of Durham Department of Archaeology Photographic Deposit all held by the Durham University Archives and Special Collections

Maps and drawings of Rome can also be found in Bishop Cosin's Library and the Routh Library. These include a map of Rome in Hartmann Schedel's Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg, 1493) and a drawing of Rome in Giacomo Lauro's Antiquae Urbis Splendor (Rome, 1612).

The Bowes Museum likewise holds a significant amount of Roman archaeological material from Ebchester, Chester-le-Street, Binchester, and Piercebridge. Important local objects include a Roman Head Pot excavated from Piercebridge.


Ancient Greece

The Durham University Museum of Archaeology houses an important collection of Ancient Greek ceramics including black-figure and red-figure wares, as well as examples of Corinthian geometric pottery. The collection also includes a fine series of electrotype copies of ancient Greek coins, produced by Robert Ready of the British Museum in the late nineteenth century.

In the Durham University Archives and Special Collections, the Foster Albums contain a number of photographs and postcards of classical sites in Greece.

Further afield, the Shefton Collection of Greek Art and Archaeology, held by the Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, constitutes the most substantial collection of archaeological material from the Greek world in the North of England.


Ancient Near East

As the only museum in the North East dedicated to the art and archaeology of the Orient, the Durham University Oriental Museum holds substantial material relating to the Ancient Near East, including artefacts from Jerusalem, Jericho, Lachish, Ur and Nimrud. The collection also includes two reliefs, thought to be from Nineveh, and an extensive number of seals.

In the Durham University Archives and Special Collections, the Foster Albums reflect Foster's interest in early Church architecture and contain a number of photographs depicting sites in the Middle East and Turkey. 


Classical Works

A significant volume of classical works can be found in the Durham University Archives and Special Collections

The Maltby Library contains approximately 1,500 titles including a number relating to Classical Literature whilst the Routh Library contains approximately 16,500 titles and has many volumes relating to ancient history and classical antiquities. The Bamburgh Library also contains a significant amount of classical literature, including rare editions of the works of Virgil, Aristophanes, Sophocles and Aristotle.

The Kellett Collection includes a number of classical and medieval sources which influenced the writings of the sixteenth-century French physician Jean Fernel.

In addition to the collections held by Durham University, a number of classical works can also be found in the Durham Cathedral printed book collection.


Classical Languages

The Ellershaw Collection, held by the Durham University Archives and Special Collections, contains translations of modern English texts into classical languages, formed by Canon Henry Ellershaw. The contents of the collection are almost entirely nineteenth- and twentieth-century translations into Latin and Greek.