Durham Priory Library Recreated
Durham possesses the finest collection of medieval manuscripts of any English cathedral. Durham University, in partnership with Durham Cathedral, is embarking on an ambitious project to digitise the original Priory Library of Durham Cathedral. This initiative is aimed at making the best-preserved, best-catalogued Benedictine library in the UK and Ireland available globally for research, learning and teaching.
We are pleased to be supporting this project with a comprehensive academic programme designed to unlock significant research leading to notable publications, conferences and exhibitions. Drawing on our members' expertise, the organisation will complement existing IMEMS research under the five key themes listed below.
A list of the surviving Priory works is available here. Works in the Durham Cathedral and Durham University collections are being digitised as part of the first phase of the Project; Ushaw College books will be digitised as part of a later phase. For further information on the Priory collections see:
- R.A.B. Mynors, Durham Cathedral Manuscripts to the end of the 12th century (Oxford, 1939)
- Richard Gameson, Manuscript Treasures of Durham Cathedral (III Millennium, 2010)
History of the Book
Community Living: Liturgy, Rules and Well-Being
Scholastic Learning and Philosophical Enquiry
Science, Knowledge and the Natural World
About the Library
The medieval and Renaissance library of Durham’s Benedictine priory is by far the best preserved of any in Britain or Ireland. Not only do considerably more items survive than from any other pre-Reformation collection, but they are supported by an extensive series of library catalogues that extends from the eleventh to the fifteenth century. With manuscript books that range in date from the sixth century to the sixteenth, and that were written in France, Germany and Italy as well as in England and Ireland, the Durham Cathedral Priory Library includes masterpieces of calligraphy and illumination, spanning a millennium of European culture. Every page sheds light on historical and textual traditions, calligraphic practices and patterns of use over the centuries. Simultaneously, the collocation of the uniquely high number of surviving items, their broad chronological and geographical spread, and the outstanding documentation for the growth and use of the Library across the lifetime of the Priory makes the collection as a whole very much more than the sum of its parts.