Durham Liber Vitae

Durham Liber Vitae
London, British Library, MS Cotton Domitian vii
Type liber vitae, confraternity book
Date 9th century, with additions being made until c. 1300 and to a lesser extent, also at later dates
Place of origin Northumbria
Scribe(s) multiple
Material parchment
Size 205 x 142 mm
Condition original binding lost, some damage over time
Script various
Additions names of benefactors and visitors

The Durham Liber Vitae is a confraternity book produced in north-eastern England in the Middle Ages. It records the names of visitors to the church of the bishopric of Durham, and its predecessor sees at Lindisfarne and Chester-le-Street. In England it is the oldest book of this type, although it is paralleled by later English confraternity books, most notably the New Minster Liber Vitae.[1]

Original Anglo-Saxon Liber Vitae

The text was originally of the 9th century, but was continually supplemented thereafter by entries made in the 10th century and later.[2]

The 9th-century core constitutes folios 15—45, with folio 47.[3] It is generally believed by scholars that it was produced in the church of Lindisfarne, though Monkwearmouth-Jarrow monasteries have also been suggested.[4] This had been composed c. 840. It has been damaged over time, and the original binding is now lost.[5] It consisted of parchment sheets on which were written lists of names, followed by blank sections for future additions.[6]

The book was at Durham by the later 11th century, as indicated by the list of Durham monks on folio 45 from the episcopate of Ranulf Flambard.[4] Later additions to the early core were made to folios 24r, 36r, 44v and 45r.[7]

High and Later Middle Ages

It was reorganised in the third quarter of the 12th century, and it is likely that many of the names originally there did not survive.[6] The form it attained at that point appears to be the one it kept until the 15th century, although it was continually updated with new entries.[6] After 1300 very few names were added to the original core.[8]

The Liber Vitae is currently in the British Library, where it is classified as BL, MS Cotton Domitian vii. The manuscript itself is 205 x 142 mm.[9]


  1. Keynes, "The Liber Vitae of the New Minster Winchester"
  2. Rollason & Rollason (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae, pp. 6—7.
  3. Rollason & Rollason (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae, p. 7.
  4. 1 2 Briggs, "Original Core", p. 64; Gerchow, "Origins", p. 47.
  5. Rollason & Rollason (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae, p. 11.
  6. 1 2 3 Rollason & Rollason (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae, p. 18.
  7. Rollason & Rollason (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae, p. 24.
  8. Rollason & Rollason (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae, p. 26.
  9. Rollason & Rollason (eds.), The Durham Liber Vitae, p. 6.


Further reading

External links

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