Treasure of the month

Durham Cathedral has acquired an internationally renowned collection of manuscripts and historic artefacts over the centuries. Each month we feature one of these objects as 'Treasure of the Month' on our website.

Some items from the Cathedral's collections are on display in Open Treasure, a new world-class visitor experience at the heart of the Cathedral's medieval monastic buildings. 

November 2017 - John Tynemouth, Nova Legenda Anglie 
London, Printed by Wynkyn de Worde, 1516

This remarkable image comes from our Treasure of the Month for November, an early printed book of saints that, from its text to its binding, has ties to the North East. The Nova Legenda Anglie is a printed and alphabetical arranged version of a manuscript compiled in the mid-14th century, John Tynemouth’s Sanctilogium. A collection of the lives of 156 British saints, compiled in the mid-14th century, it survives now in one complete manuscript in the British Library. Until recent times it was ascribed to the theologian and historian John Capgrave (1393-1464) – identified as the author on the spine of this volume.
John Tynemouth (or John of Tynemouth, sometimes known as John York) was a medieval chronicler of the mid-14th century who, as well as his famous Sanctilogium, was also known for the Historia Aurea, a history of the world from the Creation through to 1347. Contemporary sources claim that he had been the vicar of Tynemouth in Northumberland; he may also have been a monk of St Alban’s Abbey as his work was long associated with that monastery.
This volume dates from 1516 – less than seventy years after the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press – and was produced by Wynkyn de Worde, a key figure in the history of book production in England. De Worde is believed to have been brought to England from his home in the Low Countries by William Caxton, to act as Caxton’s assistant when he established his printing press in Westminster in 1476 – the first in England. De Worde took over the workshop following Caxton’s death in 1492, and started to move printing away from its late-medieval beginnings towards the more ‘modern’ system of printing we recognise today. Rather than relying purely on rich patrons, he focused on producing relatively inexpensive books for a mass market and commercial audience. Although his vast output (he published over 400 books, in over 800 editions) was dominated by religious texts, he also printed romantic stories, children’s books, poetry, and works on household practice and animal husbandry.
Research undertaken by A.I. Doyle suggests that this volume was rebound sometime in the period spanning 1665-1695 by Hugh Hutchinson, the only major figure of the Durham book trade during the 1670s. Operating as both a bookseller and bookbinder, Hutchinson had the monopoly on binding books for not only the Dean and Chapter of Durham, but also for Kepier School and St. Mary-le-Bow. Letters written in the early 1670s from Bishop Cosin suggest that Cosin was not always impressed with Hutchinson: when the bishop’s request to have his arms embossed onto all of the books in his library was met with scant enthusiasm by Hutchinson, because of the standard of stamp, he wrote to stationer Myles Stapylton: “I perceive that neither you nor Hutchinson … have any great mind to set my Arms upon the back of my books unless the prints were better cut, which I am endeavouring to get done here againe at London and shall send them to you as soon as I get them finished”.
This volume will be on display and can be viewed as part of Open Treasure’s new Saintly Sisters temporary exhibition, opening on Tuesday 28th November.