A.I. Doyle Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 33 AID
  • Dates of Creation
      1946-2018 (papers); 1477-2008 (books)
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English  and some Latin  books
  • Physical Description
      3 metres of papers, with 3 metres of books totalling over 78 items

Scope and Content

This collection of A.I. Doyle's papers relate principally to the academic and some of the personal activities of a major figure in late medieval manuscript and early modern book scholarship, and especially the collections in Durham, and also tothe wider interests of someone very much involved in more general administrative and historical issues in the North East. There are some files concerning his personal life and career development, and many files on the manuscripts in Durham andrelated research topics, his teaching for the university, a quantity of related audiovisual material with images of manuscripts and also the locale, and the occasional object. There are also some files about AID's library colleague I.J.C. Foster(1908-1978) and especially AID's administration of his legacy.

His books comprise a small but wide-ranging collection of classical, devotional, literary, historical and local volumes, representative of English and Continental printing, with one incunabulum (Appianus, Historia Romana (Venice, 1477)), a quantity of 16th century volumes, and a range of William Cobbett works.

Administrative / Biographical History

Anthony Ian Doyle (AID), the distinguished medievalist and palaeographer, was born in Liverpool on 24 October 1925, and schooled by the Christian Brothers at St Mary’s College, Great Crosby. Debarred by asthma from wartime military service, hewent up to Cambridge (Downing College) at the age of only 17, where he read English under F. R. Leavis, and graduated with a double first in 1945. Although his first publications (some while still an undergraduate) were on modern literature, heturned for his doctoral research to Middle English, and to the study not of texts but of the production and circulation of manuscripts This was to be foremost among his research interests throughout his life. His Ph.D. thesis, accepted in 1953, wasentitled ‘A Survey of the Origins and Circulation of Theological Writings in English in the 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries with Special Consideration of the Part of the Clergy Therein’. The remarkably extensive survey of manuscripts he conducted forit underpinned much of his own later work, and influenced many other scholars in the emerging new discipline of codicology.

Although AID seemed initially bent on an academic career, part-time employment by Downing College library during his doctoral research gave him some introductory experience of librarianship, and in 1950 he was appointed to a post as SeniorLibrary Assistant in Durham University Library, where the medieval collections, including a number of Middle English manuscripts, had particular attractions for him. He spent the rest of his career here (Keeper of Rare Books 1959-82, Reader inBibliography 1972-85). The remarkable depth and range of knowledge he built up of the manuscript and early book collections of the University, Cathedral and Ushaw College libraries, is unlikely ever to be equalled. It is reflected in his numerouspublications on individual collections and collectors, and in the catalogue of the University Library’s medieval manuscripts. Almost complete at the time of his death and now available in draft online [insert link], the catalogue’s preparation was amajor preoccupation of his years both in post and in retirement, and his draft descriptions and accumulated notes on individual manuscripts occupy many of his personal research files.

AID played a central part in the development of the University library, and especially its special collections, throughout his career here. He was also a very active participant in university and city life more broadly. His interest in andknowledge of Durham’s collections extended to the historic buildings which house them, and to Durham Castle, where he was a leading figure in the senior common room and on the buildings and historic contents committee. He was active in the wideruniversity, serving on senate and numerous committees, and also becoming much involved in city affairs, particularly in relation to Durham’s historic buildings and planning matters. He took a very active part in the learned societies of the area -Surtees Society, Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, and Durham Local History Society - contributing to their publications and serving on their councils and committees. Concern for the built environment was one ofhis major interests, and he served as a trustee of the City of Durham Trust for many years. He helped to found the Bow Trust, and until his last years played a leading part in its development of the redundant church of St Mary-le-Bow to house theDurham Museum and Heritage Centre. A devout Roman Catholic, his religious faith was central to his life. He was a parishioner of St Cuthbert’s in Durham for over sixty years, interested in and knowledgeable about its history and that of Catholicismin the North-East, and readily gave time to parish affairs, especially concerning the church building.

Nationally, he was a pioneer in the development of special collections librarianship in this country, never confined by artificial organisational barriers between manuscripts and print, always keen to contribute to major collaborative projects,and renowned for his helpfulness to users of collections. From his arrival in Durham onwards, his scholarly career continued to develop in parallel with his library career. In 1967 he gave a seminal series of Lyall lectures at Oxford on ‘SomeEnglish Scribes and Scriptoria of the Later Middle Ages’, and he continued to produce a steady stream of influential publications right to the end of his long life, valiantly defying the difficulties that impaired sight and hearing brought to hislatter years. Famed for the generosity with which he shared the fruits of his researches with other scholars, he also gave significant time to committee work nationally, especially on the councils of the Bibliographic Society and the early EnglishText Society, the committees of the Rare Books Group and Sconul Manuscripts Group, the editorial board of the British Academy’s Corpus of Medieval British Library Catalogues, and the conferences of the Early Book Society. After the Sconul group’sdemise he was active in founding AMARC (the Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research), serving as its chair and then president.

His scholarly distinction brought him many honours: member of the Comité International de Paléographie 1979, British Academy’s Israel Gollancz Prize 1983, Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America 1991, Fellow of the British Academy1992, Durham University Chancellor’s Medal 2010, Bibliographic Society Gold Medal 2014. He died on 4 February 2018.


  • A Personal papers
  • B Durham and North-East England files
  • C Research files
  • D Audiovisual material
  • E Objects
  • F Foster files
  • G Teaching files
  • H Books

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Given by his executors, principally Beth Rainey, 30 July 2018 (Acc Misc.2017/18:144), with subsequent additions 22 & 27 February 2019 (Acc No Misc.2018/19:79-80) and 21 May 2019 (Acc No Misc.2018/19:116).

Archivist's Note

Papers catalogued by Michael Stansfield in 2019.

Books have yet to be catalogued.

Separated Material

Cambridge University Library: AID's medieval manuscript files, transferred by his executors April 2019, list available at PGL; also his files as chairman of AMARC.

Exeter University Library: AID's 3 probably former Syon Abbey books, transferred by his executors April 2019, list available at PGL.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from pg.library@durham.ac.uk and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyrightowners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

Administrative files of his time as Keeper of Rare Books in Durham University Library are to be found in the university's archive at UND/EA2/5.

He also features extensively in the general records of the University Library (UND/EA1), University College committees (UND/F1/B), the Surtees Society (SUS) and the Bow Trust (Add Ms 1788).


Late-medieval religious texts and their transmission: essays in honour of A.I. Doyle, ed. by A.J. Minnis (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1994)New science out of old books: studies in manuscripts and early printed books in honour of A.I. Doyle, ed. by R. Beadle and A.J. Piper (Aldershot: Scolar P., c.1995)