Cosin Manuscripts

Scope and Content

Largely medieval book manuscripts, but also includes a number of post-medieval volumes. The medieval book manuscripts (in Latin, medieval French, Middle English, and English) include theological, liturgical, legal, literary, historical, medical,scientific, and culinary texts, and some on political theory. The post-medieval manuscripts are mostly works of John Cosin (1594-1672), Bishop of Durham, and associates and contemporaries, and early records (shelf-lists, catalogues and borrowingregisters) of Bishop Cosin's Library. Only a few of the medieval manuscripts came from Bishop Cosin himself. Most were collected by his chaplain George Davenport (d. 1677), Rector of Houghton-le-Spring, and a few came from other donors.

Administrative / Biographical History

This collection forms part of Bishop Cosin's Library, Durham, which was founded in 1669 by John Cosin, Bishop of Durham, as an endowed public library. The library, still in its original building, now forms part of Durham University Library, andsince 1937 the University of Durham has been its trustee.


In order of pressmark.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

See administrative/biographical history above

Other Finding Aids

1. Briefly described (except for the vols. of Library records) in Latin catalogue by Thomas Rud compiled in the early 18th century and published in appendix to Catalogi Veteres..., Surtees Society 7 (1838), pp.136-191 - online at The search room copy ofCatalogi Veteres is annotated with brief details of a few manuscripts added or restored to the collection post-Rud.

2. The medieval manuscripts are covered by the Draft Catalogue of Medieval Manuscripts in the University Library shelved in the Barker Research Library. Most descriptions are now available via the onlinecatalogue of the collection.

3. Catalogue of the post-medieval manuscripts, including the volumes of library records for Bishop Cosin's Libary, online catalogue.

Alternative Form Available

Master negatives of all the medieval manuscripts are held by the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, St. John's Abbey and University, Collegeville, Minnesota. 56321, U.S.A. Transatlantic requests for films of Cosin Manuscripts can most economicallybe supplied by Hill.

Durham University Library also has a complete set of negative films of the medieval manuscripts. These can be used to supply positive copies to applicants from this country and Europe. Films are black and white, but colour is available of manyinitials etc., on a separate reel and also made up as slides.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assistwhere possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Doyle, A.I., John Cosin (1595-1672) as a library maker, The book collector, 40 (1991), 335-57  Doyle, A.I., The Cosin manuscripts and George Davenport, The book collector, 53 (2004), p.31-45.  Doyle, A.I., Problems in recording the contents of the Cosin Manuscripts, in Middle English prose: essays in bibliographical problems ed. A.S.G. Edwards and D. Pearsall (NewYork, 1981), 65-80 Gee, Henry, The correspondence of George Davenport, sometime Rector of Houghton-le-Spring, Archaeologia Aeliana, 3rd ser., 9 (1913), 1-10  Whiting, C.E., Cosin's Library, Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, 9 pt 1 (1939), 18-32