DCL MS. B.IV.4Ambrose, Hexameron; miscellaneous theological extracts
Held by: Durham Cathedral Library: Durham Cathedral Manuscripts

Composite manuscript made up of two separate items. (A) f.2-79 (B) f.80-90 (plus medieval flyleaf, f.1). If (B) is the “Exceptiones Isidori” on the late 12th century book-list then they were still separate then; they had certainly been brought together by 1395, recorded in the Cloister Catalogue of that year “Sex libri Ambrosii in Exameron cum Tractu de conjugio ii fo do mundum possset”.

Digitised: https://n2t.durham.ac.uk/ark:/32150/t1mrr171x43n.html

Physical description of manuscript
Extent: i+90+i f
Size: 238 mm x 174 mm


Modern pencil foliation; an intermittent older ink foliation one in advance of the actual number.

Secundo folio: -do mundum posset

Condition of manuscriptTrimmed in the lower margin, doubtless to remove/reduce the areas most severely damaged by damp; the trimming roughly done, leaving jagged and irregular cut marks. Damp/mold damage remains visible at the outer edges and in the lower margins of leaves at the front and back of the book. A few worm holes in the final leaves.

A parchment tab inscribed “II” is attached to f.46/47


Standard Tuckett binding, mid 19th century full brown calf over thick wooden boards (Charles Tuckett, binder to the British Museum, rebound many Durham manuscripts in the 19th century). Stains from 4 channels in the boards (corresponding to the position of the bands) visible on both the 19th century and medieval front and end leaves.

Manuscript history

Pressmark “.C.”, later 14th century, f.2r, top centre. Title: “C Exameron' Ambrosij de communi libraria monachorum dunelm'”, start of 15th century, f.2r, top. “15” and extended list of contents f.2r, top, in the hand of Thomas Swalwell.
(A) appears on the late 12th century Durham book-list as “Exameron Ambrosii”; (B) is possibly the “Exceptiones Isidori” there listed. Both are recorded as a single volume in the 1395 Cloister catalogue.

Physical description of section of manuscript

Parchment: stout, cream to yellow in tone with minimal distinction between H/F sides. Occasional holes and flaws. Arranged HF, FH.

Extent: 79 f

flyleaf, singleton, I-II8, III6, IV-V10, VI12, VII-VIII10, IX4 (= 6 with leaves 5 and 6, blank, cancelled)


Lines: 36 in quires III-IV; 36 and 37 in quire I; 37 in quire II and V-IX (space, 5+ mm; height of minims, 2+ mm). Pricking: awl; prickings survive only in the upper, and (sometimes wholly, other times partially) in the outer margin. Ruling: hard point; direct impressions on every H side. Double verticals flank the text-block. The horizontals extended vary: in quires I-IV, the first, third, last and antepenultimate; in quire V-VI the first two, the last and the antepenultimate (or the last two); in quire VII-VIII the first two and the last two (except the innermost sheet of VIII, f.70 & 71, where it is the first, third, last and antepenultimate); in quire IX the first, last and antepenultimate.


Written in Protogothic by 4 scribes.


(b) is headed by a decorated initial “T”, 19 lines high: the upright of the letter is formed from a panel around which grows foliage; the upper and lower terminals are of interlace; the arms are defined by foliate curls inhabited (on the left) by a quadruped and a hybrid, and (on the right) by a quadruped. The details are rendered in red, green and brown, set against red, green and yellow grounds, all within a purple panel. Books II-VI are headed by red initials 5-11 lines high, embellished or arabesque, those for II and VI the largest and most elaborate (the green has penetrated the parchment.) A multi-coloured arabesque, 6 lines high, marks the citation of Genesis 1.1 in Book I. (c) is headed by a plain red “L”, 6 lines high. Areas of the red of the initial and the accompanying rubric have discoloured to a metallic grey-silver.

History of section of manuscript

Written in England, first quarter of 12th century.

Manuscript contents
(a)     f.1r-1v
Modern title: Homily fragment on Sin
Incipit: ... tam grauiter deliquit, q[ua]m nullus in tanta delitiarum abundantia, et cognitionis et arbitrii perfectionis fuit.
Language: Latin

A contemporary reject leaf reused as a flyleaf? Written by two hands.

(b)     f.2r-77v
Original title: Hexameron
Author: Ambrose, Saint, Bishop of Milan, -397
Incipit: Tantum ne opinionis assumpsisse homines presumpserunt, ut aliqui eorum tria principia constituerent omnium
Explicit: Ipse enim requievit qui fecit, cui est honor, gloria, perpetuitas, a seculis, et nunc et semper et in omnia secula seculorum amen.
Rubric: In nomine domini nostri iesu christi incipit liber exameron, id est sex dierum sancti ambrosii mediolanensis episcopi
Language: Latin

Text is presented as a continuous block with subdivisions marked only by a marginal rubric and the application of red to their sentence capital. Running headings give the book number. Some citations are written in Rustic Capitals. Light but persistent annotation in lead and ink by several hands, 12th-13th and 14th-15th century.

(c)     f.77v-78r
Original title: De natura rerum
Author: Isidore, of Seville, Saint, -636
Incipit: Legimus in david laudate dominum celi celorum utrum enim sit unum celum an plures contentio est
Explicit: tantum he sibi inuicem distant
Rubric: Ambrosius de celorum pluralitate, et de aquis celestibus, Et de quantitate solis et lune
Language: Latin

Extracts on the Heavens and the Sun. Three pieces, presented as a single block of text. f.78v-79v, blank.

Physical description of section of manuscript

Parchment: modest quality; stout and even-toned (yellow), difficult to distinguish H/F sides

Extent: 11 f

I11 (irregular: 80+89, 81+88, and 82+87 are bifolia; 83 and 86 probably formed a bifolium, now split into singletons; 84 and 85 (the leaves with diagrams) were always singletons.


Written area: 209 x 134 mm. Lines: 29 (space, 6+ mm; height of minims, 2 mm). Pricking: none survive. Ruling: mainly hard point, with some direct impressions; transferred impressions on f.82r and 87r (presumably from the ruling on f.81r+88r). f.84r was ruled in lead; the ruling on f.84v is extremely faint but was probably also done in lead. Double verticals flank the text block, the first and last horizontals are extended.


Written by at least two scribes in Late Caroline Minuscule of northern French type and Protogothic of French or Low Countries type.


Each entry is headed by an initial, 1 to 2 lines lines high, generally plain occasionally slightly embellished, 2 blue, 4 green, the remainder red. Sentence capitals stroked in red throughout. Affinity diagram on f.84v is set out in columns separated by vertical red lines. The consanguinity diagram on f.85r is presented within a series of red boxes arranged in an arrow-shape.

History of section of manuscript

Written in France, Flanders or England, early 12th century.

Manuscript contents
(d)     f.80r-90r
Modern title: Theological miscellanea
Language: Latin

A collection of about 25 extracts of varied length on theological, pastoral and moral subjects. Lower half of f.90r and all of 90v, blank.

Edited: Peter Lombard, Commentarium in Psalmos

Microfilmed in 1985/86 by the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, St John's Abbey and University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Copies held by them and Durham Cathedral Library.

Digitised material for Durham Cathedral Library MS. B.IV.4 - Ambrose, Hexameron; miscellaneous theological extracts
Digitised April 2019 as part of the Durham Priory Library Recreated project


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.   OCLC citation, Surtees Society 7, (London: J.B. Nichols and Son, [1838]).

Mynors, R.A.B., Durham Cathedral manuscripts to the end of the twelfth century. Ten plates in colour and forty-seven in monochrome. With an introduction [including a list of all known Durham manuscripts before 1200]   OCLC citation, (Durham: 1939)

Index terms