The Liber Vitae of Durham (BL MS Cotton Domitian A. vii): a discussion of its possible context and use in the later
Lynda Susan Rollason
Doctor of Philosophy, Durham University (2003)
This thesis examines in detail the history and use of the Liber Vitae of Durham (BL MS Cotton Domitian A. vii). The manuscript is one of a small group of similar manuscripts created by different monasteries to record the names of associates of the monastery to be remembered during the round of monastic prayer. The Liber Vitae was first created in the mid-ninth century in Northumbria. Between c.1083 and c.1539 the monks of Durham used it to record the names of members of the monastic community together with large numbers of non-monastic names. In the first section of the thesis the history and development of the manuscript is explored through a detailed consideration of its codicology, supported by a discussion of the development of the lists of names over five hundred years. The phases of the development of the manuscript discovered by these means are then placed in their historical context, first in ninth century Northumbria and then in Durham between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries.
In the second section the evidence for the way in which the book might have been used in the liturgy is examined. The possible uses of the book are particularly compared with the other evidence available from Durham for the ways in which friends and benefactors of the monastery were commemorated. In the final section the non-monastic names written into the manuscript after c. 1300 are examined in detail to try to define what group of associates of the priory of Durham are in fact commemorated in the Liber Vitae.