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Archives and Special Collections: Medieval Manuscripts: Durham University Library Medieval Manuscripts

Our collections

There are several collections containing medieval manuscript books here:

  • Cosin manuscripts
  • Additional manuscripts
  • Mickleton & Spearman
  • Moriarty
  • Bamburgh Library
  • St Chad's Library

The Cosin manuscripts contain the largest group of items, nearly 100 written in Latin, medieval French, Middle English, and English, containing theological, liturgical, legal, literary, historical, medical, scientific, and culinary texts. Many have quite miscellaneous content but there is a notable quantity of Middle English (including a copy of Troilus and Criseyde, a holograph Hoccleve manuscript, Mirk's Festial and several works by Lydgate). Several other items are from Durham Priory Library. Most of them were collected by George Davenport, Bishop Cosin's chaplain and rector of Houghton-le-Spring.

The Cosin Manuscripts are catalogued in an appendix to Catalogi veteres librorum Ecclesiae Cathedralis Dunelm. Catalogues of the library of Durham Cathedral, at various periods, from the conquest to the dissolution, including catalogues of the library of the abbey of Hulne, and of the mss. preserved in the library of Bishop Cosin, at Durham. (Surtees Society, v.7. London, 1838), p.136-191.

Fourteen manuscripts are featured in Treasures of Durham University Library, edited by Richard Gameson (London: Third Millennium, 2007).

Most medieval manuscript fragments in our collections are from bindings: some have been removed from the book in which they were re-used while others  still remain in the book as part of the binding. This material is mostly grouped under Additional Manuscripts 1650 sequence: older references to it may mention Portfolio I-III, which relates to the albums in which these fragments were formerly stored in the 20th century. Each fragment (or group of pieces) has been catalogued separately, identifying where possible the text, date and place of writing of the manuscript and the book in which it was found.

The main catalogue for these fragments contains links to more detailed separate descriptions of substantial items or short notes on minor (sometimes unidentifiable) pieces.

Most fragments have been digitised and the images can be browsed

Fragment numbering sequence
Current reference Previous sequence
Add.MS. 1950/1-  -
Add.MS. 1950/A Formerly in Portfolio I
Add.MS. 1950/B Formerly loose or oversize in Portfolio I and II
Add.MS. 1950/C Formerly in Portfolio II
Add.MS. 1950/D Formerly in Portfolio III
Add.MS. 1950/E Formerly in Portfolio IV
Add.MS. 1950/F Formerly in Portfolio V
Add.MS. 1950/Z Fragments still in books (subdivided by book collection)


Single leaves cut from manuscripts are found in two collections.


Leaves from ten manuscripts. Religious service books and two 16th century letters in cipher in French. Catalogue (all digitised)


Pieces from two service books. Uncatalogued.


There are also some leaves amongst the fragments in the Additional Manuscripts 1650 sequence, notably Add.MS 1650/C/33 a leaf from Livy from an Otto Ege portfolio.

Availability online (digital images)

If you would like to purchase digital copies of specific items from any of our collections, please get in touch.

If you are a member of teaching staff at Durham University and would like to use material from Archives and Special Collections within your lectures or seminars, we may be able to scan or photograph items for this purpose.  Please contact us as early as possible with any teaching digitisation requests.

See also our guide to Digitised Collections Online for further information on our digital resources.

Access to original sources

Our collections are at one of two sites.

  • Palace Green Library: open Monday to Friday (appointments recommended - required during April and May, see below), 10am to 4:30pm
  • Ushaw College Library:  access is currently limited. Please submit an enquiry form for further details.

For further details, see our guide to Visiting us in person.  To make an appointment, please use our enquiry form.  Please give three working days notice for appointments and include a full list of document references or shelfmarks so that we can best enable your research access.

See information on Using Our Collections for further information on accessing our collections and on our facilities and services.

Details of opening times can be found in our Library Sites guide.

Where to start

Sources elsewhere