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The Red Book of Thorney

The medieval abbey of Thorney was a centre of scholarship, but also a wealthy administrative centre for the lands it held over a wide area - in what we now call Cambridgeshire, but also further afield where donations had been made to the Abbey. One of the few collections of manuscripts remaining together to this day, the Red Book is a cartulary, recording the land holdings and charters of the Abbey from the fourteenth century onwards. It is divided into two volumes.


It was donated to Cambridge University Library at the end of the nineteenth century by Samuel Sanders (1837-1894) - yes, we might all do a double-take at that, as it is so close to Samuel Sanders Teulon (1812-1873) who was the main architect of Victorian Thorney. The parchment pages were rebound in the late 1880s but the techniques used then have proved damaging to the medieval manuscripts and make the books difficult to read.


The University Library took apart and then rebound the books in order to help to preserve it and to make it more available to scholars. The following resources show the care devoted to this exceptional set of manuscripts.


The source of the illustration and some of these details is https://specialcollections-blog.lib.cam.ac.uk/?p=14283

The film is visible at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H2qw_9cT7A

The digitised book can be seen at https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-ADD-03021/1 in the University of Cambridge Digital Library


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