DCL MS. B.IV.39BVita St Oswald, etc.
Held by: Durham Cathedral Library: Durham Cathedral Manuscripts

Manuscript codex, a composite of four separate parts: (I) f.1-3; (II) f.5-22; (III) f.23-94; (IV) f.95-129. Parts (II) and (III) were evidently a freestanding item of their own, 14th/15th century (shown by their entries thus in the Spendement catalogues of 1392 and 1416. By s.15th/16th century (II)-(IV) had clearly been joined to the material now in DCL MS B.IV.39A (shown by the contents list by Thomas Swalwell in that volume, which also reveals that a ‘Tractatus bonus et satis subtilis de eucharistia’ then followed the Wulfstan material Part (III)). This was all recorded as one volume by Rud, and was presumably divided into the present two volumes (A and B), with Part I being prefixed to the latter, by Tucketts in 1846.

Digitised: https://n2t.durham.ac.uk/ark:/32150/t2mht24wj589.html

Physical description of manuscript
Extent: i+130+i f
Size: 265 mm x 180 mm


Foliated: 1-3 in modern pencil; 5-123, 123*-128 in earlier ink (with a bogus ink 3 on f.5); 129 in modern pencil

Secundo folio: eius ignoretur

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). f.129v has stains from turn-ins of an earlier binding.

Manuscript history

Pressmark: “D”, f.5r, top right, 14th/15th century. Recorded in 1392 and 1416 Spendement catalogues, in Vitae sanctorum sections.

Physical description of section of manuscript

Parchment: low quality, yellow with pronounced follicle marks.

Extent: 3 f

Singleton within a bifolium


No pricking or ruling


Written in Textualis semi-quadrata. Second contents list in hand of Thomas Swalwell.

Rust-stained holes at the fore-edge of f.1-2, from the metal fixtures of a pair of clasps on an earlier binding. Green stain at the lower edge, centre, of f.1 from metalwork on an earlier binding.

History of section of manuscript

Provenance as DCL MS B.IV.32. Ex libris states “Iste liber assignatur communi almarialo dunlm' ex procuratione domini Johannis de Rypon' monachi et medici”

Manuscript contents
(a)     f.1-3
Modern title: Flyleaves from DCL MS B.IV.32
Language: Latin

f.1v, list of contents of DCL MS B.IV.32; f.2r, ex libris inscription for same; f.3v two contents lists for same.

Physical description of section of manuscript

Parchment: modest quality; H sides yellow and follicle marked; pronounced H/F contrast. Arranged HF, FH.

Extent: 18 f

I8, II10

Catchwords: Contemporary catchword on quire I.

Text-block: 198-205 x 112-115 mm. Lines: 30 (space, 6-7 mm; height of minims, 3 mm). Pricking: awl. Prickings preserved in upper and lower margins only. Ruling: lead. Double verticals flank the text on both sides; first two and last two horizontals extended. Other horizontals irregularly overlap the verticals.


Written in Textualis semi-quadrata, variable, the writing always set well above the horizontal rulings; the same hand was responsible for the rubrics.


Text headed by a 4-line-high green initial, with simple flourishing in red. Each subsequent chapter by a 2+-line-high plain initial, alternately red then green.

Corrections and annotation

Crude sketch of a human head in profile was added, 13th century, to the lower margin of f.17r.

History of section of manuscript

Written in England, Worcester?, mid 13th century.

Manuscript contents
(b)     f.5-22
Original title: Vita Oswaldi
Author: Senatus of Worcester, -1207
Incipit: Sanctorum frequentare memoriam actusque crebro replicare in exemplum
Explicit: in cuius ore nec uerbum fide uacuum, nec dolus locum uendicauit
Rubric: Prologus magistri Senati prioris Wig[orniensis] in vitam sancti Oswaldi archiepiscopi
Language: Latin

Proverbs and apothegms jotted casually and lightly but in big letters (minims 4 mm high), 13th century, in margins up to f.14r.

Edited: Raine 1886, v.ii, 60-97

Physical description of section of manuscript

Parchment: modest quality, with noticeable H/F contrast; variable thickness. Arranged HF, FH.

Extent: 71 f

Secundo folio: in amorem


Catchwords: Contemporary catchwords.
Signatures: Contemporary signatures, starting with “.I.” on quire I, final verso, lower margin, centre (further examples preserved on quires III-VI). Leaf numbering or lettering in the first half of most quires.Matches part (II) in format, but the fact that the present part has its own series of original quire signatures confirms that they were made separately.

Text-block: 205 x 115 mm. Lines: 30 (space, 6-7 mm; height of minims, 4 mm). Pricking: awl. Prickings generally preserved in the upper and lower margins. Ruling: lead. Double verticals flank the text on both sides; first two and last two horizontals extended. Other horizontals irregularly overlap the verticals.


Written in Textualis semi-quadrata. Similar to, but generally neater and more consistent than, the hand of Part (II). This hand appears to have done the rubrics throughout this part. f.77r in a second hand.


The incipits of both books of (b) and of Book II of (c) are headed by two-colour (red and green) initials, 5+ lines high. The start of (c) is marked by a red initial, 5 lines high, crudely flourished in green. Chapters headed by 2+ line-high capitals, alternately red then green.

History of section of manuscript

Written in England, Worcester?, mid 13th century (not before 1235).

Manuscript contents
(c)     f.23r-47r
Original title: Vita Wulfstani
Author: Possibly by Senatus of Worcester, -1207
Incipit: Gesta sanctorum patrum quorum uitam ex fide fidem ex operibus militans ueneratur ecclesia
Explicit: cuius meritis tam citam ei indulsit sanitatem.
Rubric: Incipit Uita sanctissimi Wlstani confessoris atque pontificis
Language: Latin

Arranged in two books (the second starting on f.37v). Abridged from William of Malmesbury’s Vita Wulfstani

Vita Wulfstani, 68-108
(d)     f.47r-89v
Modern title: Miracles of St Wulfstan
Incipit: Si salutifere fidei nostre rudimentum inicians circumspecte contemplemur
Explicit: ad gloriam et laudem nominis domini nostri iesu christi qui uiuat et regnat in secula seculorum amen
Rubric: Incipit prologus nouorum miraculorum sanctissimi presulis Wlstani anno ab incarnatione domini Millesimo ducentesimo primo uigilia depositionis eiusdem
Language: Latin

Arranged in two books. Reference to the pirate William de Mareis/Marisco dates this miracle to 1235x1242.

Vita Wulfstani, 115-180
(e)     f.89v-94r
Modern title: Translation and miracles of St Wulfstan
Incipit: Sepe et multum desideraui gloriosi confessoris christi et episcopi Wlstani translationem
Explicit: Repleti ergo stupore et extasi, glorificauerunt deum qui in sanctis suis semper est et ubique mirabilis
Rubric: Prologus in translatione sancti Wlstani
Language: Latin

f.94v blank

Vita Wulfstani, 180-188

Physical description of section of manuscript

Parchment: modest to low quality; follicle marks on H sides; propensity to curl; major scar running horizontally across text-area on f.97. Predominantly arranged HF, FH, with irregularities.

Extent: 36 f


Catchwords: Contemporary catchwords

Written area. (f) and (g): 193 x 135-8 mm; written above top line. (h): 235 x 160+ mm (the outer edges of the text have been cropped). (f) and (g): Two columns (width, 60 mm). (h): four columns (widths, 5, 5, 5 and 145 mm respectively). Lines. (f) and (g): 37-43 (space, 5 mm; height of minims, 2 mm). (h): 30+ (space, 8 mm; height of minims, 2.5 mm or 1 mm). Pricking: knife (the only surviving prickings are some in the upper margins). Ruling. (f) and (g): lead (now largely invisible) to f.120v; ink on f.121r-123v. Seemingly frame-ruled with single verticals flanking both columns (two in total at the intercolumnar space) and an extended top horizontal. (h): ink. Four closely-space verticals to the left; all horizontals run right across the page.


Written in Anglicana. Number of hands uncertain, probably two, changing after f.123.


The two prologues to (g) are headed by 2-line-high red capitals. The spaces reserved for 2-line-high capitals to head chapters remain blank. Further subdivisions were marked by red paraphs; sentence capitals were generally stroked in red.

History of section of manuscript

Written in England, Durham?, later 14th century.

Manuscript contents
(f)     f.95r-95v
Original title: Vita Elizabethae de Spalbeek
Author: Philip of Clairvaux, -1273
Incipit: ... passiones ac si ipsam vidisset pluries in angustia tormentorum.
Explicit: Adhuc super prelibata materia scribenda supersunt sed occupacionum necessitas necessario claudit stilum
Language: Latin

Lacks beginning. Text also appears in Cambridge, Jesus College, MS 24, a Durham Priory book. According to the 15th/16th century contents list at the start of B.IV.39A, a "Tractatus bonus et satis subtilis de eukaristia" preceded this item.

(g)     f.95v-123v
Original title: Visiones
Author: Elisabeth, of Schönau, Saint, approximately 1129-1164
Incipit: Fuit in diebus eugenii pape secundi in treuerensi episcopatu in cenobio cui nomen sconaugi
Explicit: de exercitu sancte ursule regine. Explicit liber uiarum dei et reuelacionum elizabeth
Rubric: Prologus Antereni in uisiones eiusdem beate elizabeth uirginis
Language: Latin

Here arranged in 4 books: I = Liber Visionum I (23 numbered chapters; f.96r-101r), II = Liber uiarum dei + Adjuratio conscriptoris (f.101r-115v); III = De resurrectione Marie (3 chapters, f.115v-116v); IV = Revelatio de sacro exercitu uirginum Coloniensium (30 numbered chapters; f.117r-123v). This is Redaction B according to the classification of K. Köster, "Elisabeth von Schönau ..."; all British copies are of this type, apparently descending from a manuscript sent by Robert of Ford to Abbot Baldwin of Ford between 1169 and 1178.

(h)     f.123*r-128v
Modern title: Kalendar-Martyrology
Language: Latin

An abbreviated and adapted version of Usuardus, Martyrologium. Similar to version in Cambridge, Jesus College, MS 24, a Durham Priory book (where Cuthbert and Oswald are likewise in red). f.129r-v, blank.

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.39B - Saints lives etc.
Digitised September 2019 as part of the Durham Priory Library 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]).

Darlington, R. R.,ed., The Vita Wulfstani of William of Malmesbury   OCLC citation, Camden Society 40 (London: Camden Society, 1928)

Köster, K., "Elisabeth von Schönau: Werk und Wirkung im Spiegel deer mittelalterlichen handschriftlichen Überlieferung", Archiv für mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte 3 (1951), 243-315

Raine, J., ed., The Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops   OCLC citation, Rolls Series 71, (London: Longman , 1879-94)

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