DCL MS. C.IV.25Letter writing formulary
Held by: Durham Cathedral Library: Durham Cathedral Manuscripts

Reference book for letters and letter-writing kept by the Chancery of Durham Priory at the end of the 14th and the early 15th century.

Digitised: https://n2t.durham.ac.uk/ark:/32150/t1mvq27zn47k.html

Physical description of manuscript

Paper. No visible watermarks.

Extent: i (modern parchment) + 133 + i (modern parchment) f.
Size: 282 mm x 194 mm


Modern pencil foliation, continuous. Medieval foliation starts with brown i-ii on f.21-22, then red iii-lvi on f.26-79, brown lvii-lxvi on f.80-89, brown 67-101 on f.90-124 (many of this last run rendered invisible by water damage). The roman numerals were written on both sides of each leaf, the Arabic on rectos only.

Secundo folio: f.2r Ictus permissio f.25r cedentes

I18, II14, III18, IV14, V18, VI14, VII18, VIII14, IX5


Numerous broadly contemporary hands, writing versions of Secretary or Anglicana, or a hybrid of the two.


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)

Manuscript history

Written in England, Durham, between 1381 and 1421 to judge by the contents.


Inscription: “.L. Registrum papireum diuersarum litterarum. de Officio Cancellarie Monachorum Dunelmie quondam Roberti de langchestr Cancellarij et postea Feretrarij dunelmie”, f.24r, upper margin.

Manuscript contents
(a)     f.1r-18r
Modern title: Glossary (Latin and English)
Language: Latin

Acephalus, alphabetical listing of Latin words, F-V surviving, classified under Nomina,Verba and Adverbia for each letter, with Latin synonyms and/or English definitions.

(b)     f.18v-23v, 84r-89v
Modern title: Tables of Content for Letter Collection
Language: Latin

Thematic list of contents. Both parts by the same hand, with some additions to both (especially the second) in other hands.

(c)     f.24r-83v
Modern title: Formulary of Letters
Rubric: .L. Registrum papireum diuersarum literarum de officio cancellarie monachorum Dunelmie quondam Roberti de Langchestre cancellarii et postea feretrarii Dunelmie ...
Language: Latin
Edited: Pantin, prints nine of the letters
(d)     f.90r-100r
Original title: Ars Dictandi
Author: William of Whalley
Incipit: Ad quid ualeat dictare enarret tullius
Rubric: Incipit quidam tractatus dictaminis
Language: Latin
Edited: Polak, p.286-7
(e)     f.100v-102r
Modern title: Extracts on rhetoric
Language: Latin

Excerpts, at least in part, from the Ciceronian Rhetorica ad Herennium – the first section from IV.47, the last from IV.56. f.102v blank

(f)     f.103r-110v
Original title: Documentum de modo et arte dictandi et versificandi
Author: Geoffrey, of Vinsauf, active 1200
Incipit: Tria sunt circa que cuiuslibet operis versatur artificium
Explicit: largius equo Rideat et pulset, lasciuia decentius etas
Rubric: Incipit quidam tractatus dictaminis
Language: Latin

Short version.

(g)     f.111r
Original title: De terminacione
Incipit: De terminacione quadrisilabe nota sunt exempla
Explicit: trissilaba uel quadrisillaba precedit sic
Language: Latin
(h)     f.111v-112r
Modern title: Tract on letter composition
Incipit: Sciendum est primo quod in littera plena et perfecta consistunt quinque clausule quarum prima dicitur exordium
Explicit: in illo per quem reges regnant et principes dominantur et cetera. Amen
Language: Latin
(i)     f.112v-127v
Modern title: Ecclesiastical Form Letters
Language: Latin
Language: French
Language: English

Added incrementally by eight hands with blank spaces left after entries

(j)     f.128
Modern title: On preaching sermons
Incipit: In assumpcione thematis cavendi est
Explicit: nota quod semper ultima particula sermonis esse debet de premiacione et cetera
Rubric: De modo et forma predicandi
Language: Latin
(k)     f.129v-130r
Modern title: Confirmation of privileges
Language: Latin
(l)     f.130v-133r
Modern title: Forms of address
Incipit: Omnium personarum differencias iuxta triplicem statum in triplice ordine restringere debemus
Language: Latin

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

Digitised material for Durham Cathedral Library MS. C.IV.25 - Letter writing formulary
Digitised May 2017 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]).

Pantin, W.A., "Letters from Durham Registers" in H. E. Salter, W.A. Pantin and H. G. Richardson, Formularies which bear on the History of Oxford c. 1204-1420   OCLC citation (Oxford: Oxford Historical Society n.s. 4 (1942), 215-45

Polak, E.J., Medieval and Renaissance letter treatises and form letters. A census of manuscripts …   OCLC citation (Leiden, 1994)

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