Malmesbury's Medieval Library

The medieval library in Malmesbury once held many precious manuscripts. Over 30 are known to exist in different libraries around the world today and roughly half have been digitised. 

Read and download the story of The Medieval Library of Malmesbury Abbey.

We have created a virtual library of these manuscripts - including:


    Aldhelm               William of 

Aldhelm - 639 to 709

Recognised scholar, his own quotes suggest he had access to over 90 texts. Likely to have been a mixture of religious books and texts explaining the scriptures.

Evidence suggests manuscripts were kept in a book chest rather than on shelves.

One text from his time from Malmesbury Abbey library may still exist:

Junillus Africanus, Instituta regularia divine legis in the Cotton Collection of British Library

Junillus Africanus (d. 548/9) was Quaestor of the Sacred Palace (overseeing judicial matters) in the court of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Text helps to understand how Byzantium accommodated Roman law as Roman and Christian theories converged.

William of Malmesbury - 1096 to 1143

William was a great scholar, he wrote original works and collected writings and books for Malmesbury Abbey. From his quotations we can identify 400 works by 200 authors – not all from the Malmesbury Library! The abbey probably had c. 200 different works at this point.

He found scribes from those monks willing to help rather than have an organised scriptorium. Over 50 different hands can be found in the surviving texts from the abbey.

In William’s library was:
Prudentius’s Psychomachia which describes the battle between the vices and virtues for the Christian soul

Containing William’s own hand:
De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, an influential commentary on the liberal arts written by 5th century author, Martianus Capella.

Written by William and his scribes:
St Luke’s Gospels translated by John Scotus Erigena.

This beautiful drawing comes from a late Anglo-Saxon manuscript from Malmesbury that is now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It shows a woman symbolising Faith attacking a man who symbolises Discord.