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Department of History

Some Colophons and Notes from Durham Books

Among the additions to the saec. x Durham Collectar (DCL, A.IV.19):

‘Aldred the Provost wrote these four collects at Oakley to the south of Woodyates, among the West Saxons, on Wednesday, Lawrence's feast-day (the moon being five nights old) before Tierce, for Ælfsige the bishop, in his tent.'

Scribal colophon in DCL, B. I. 33 (Peter Comestor)

‘The book is finished. Praises are rendered to God above all, [also] to the author, but never to the scribe'!

Johannes of Paderborn, Westfalia, one of the founders of printing in the Low Countries, indulged in artful marketing and self-promotion in the colophon to his edition of Virgil's Aeneid  (Virgil, Buccolica et Georgica; Aeneis. Juvenal and Persius, Satyrae; Louvain: printed by Johannes de Westfalia, 1475–76; owned by Thomas Cranston, canon of St. Andrews who became abbot of Jedburgh in 1484; DUL, Bamburgh Select 7):

            ‘Those who print books are accustomed to bring together plaudits of the authors either at the very end of the book or before the start.  But since Publius Maro Virgil is universally and not unjustly declared to be the finest of all Latin poets and also the greatest orator, I have considered it fitting in the present circumstances to reject this task: the testimonial of these greater authorities suffices for me.

            I, John of Paderborn in Westfalia, residing in the most flourishing university of Louvain, printed this anthology — although of no profit to myself — in a great volume and with much material: I was overwhelmed by the demand of many scholars who were, in essence, saying that there was a need for inserting certain glosses between the lines (at least for those who were not yet initiated in Virgil): this was no small task that I was given, so that they could hand to others a book that was better emended and better punctuated with points.

            And thus that work is completed through me, the afore-mentioned John, signing it with my usual device, in AD 1476 on 8 April.'

From the Rites of Durham

‘The Gospeller did carry a marvellous fair book which had the epistles and gospels in it and did lay it on the alter; which book had on the outside of the covering the picture of our saviour Christ, all of silver, of goldsmith's work, all parcel-gilt, very fine to behold.'