Treasures of Durham University Library
This handsome volume (paperback, 25 x 21 cm, 160 pages, illustrated in colour throughout), presents fifty selected highlights from the collection, along with an account of its nature and growth as a whole – from medieval exchequer room to modern library.
Richard Gameson is Professor of the History of the Book at Durham University. He has published numerous studies of medieval manuscripts, illumination, and book collections.
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The historic core of the rare book and manuscript holdings of Durham University is the library assembled by John Cosin, bishop of Durham 1660-72.
Thanks to continuing acquisitions and enrichments, including the deposit of the library from Bamburgh Castle, the collection now ranges from late antique papyri to modern literary manuscripts, as well as embracing substantial archival and photographic materials. The medieval manuscripts include the best-preserved service-book produced in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest, and a collection of the works of Thomas Hoccleve that was transcribed by the poet himself; while amongst the modern literary manuscripts are Kilvert’s Diary and letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
The incunabula include one of only four complete copies of William Caxton’s Doctrine to learn French and English, while the early printed books range from rare tracts printed by Wynkyn de Worde to the unique copy of Thomas More’s first assault on Martin Luther. Highly resonant, "personalised" items include the heavily-annotated Durham Book that lies behind the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the tiny booklet of his poems that W. H. Auden presented to his fiancée. Among the archival treasures are key documents relating to the great Reform Bill of 1832, currency issued and signed by Gordon of Khartoum, the sword of the last Sultan of Darfur, the actual flag (in fact a pillowcase) of the insurgent White Flag League, and historic photographs of the Sudan that are no less remarkable for their beauty than for their documentary importance.