Stowe manuscripts

Miniature of King Cnut and Queen Aelfgifu
Miniature of King Cnut and Queen Aelfgifu, from the Liber Vitae. Winchester, c. 1031. Stowe MS 944, f 6r.

This collection of manuscripts comprises primarily Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and late medieval material together with topographical and antiquarian items and papers relating to the British monarchy.

About the collection

Highlights from the collection include the New Minster Liber Vitae, the intricately illuminated Maastricht Hours and the Petit Livre d’Amour by Pierre Sala.

The collection is named after Stowe House where the library was assembled by Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1776-1839). In 1849, the collection was purchased by the 4th Earl of Ashburnham, and in 1883, the 5th Earl of Ashburnham sold the collection to Parliament. The collection was then deposited in the British Museum, with the exception of those manuscripts of Irish interest which were deposited in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.

The manuscripts are numbered Stowe MS 1 to Stowe MS 1085. The Stowe charters are numbered 1-646.

What is available online?

list of the Stowe manuscripts can be browsed and are described in the online catalogue, Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

Some images of manuscripts containing illumination can be found on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

A number of Stowe manuscripts have been digitised in full on Digitised Manuscripts.

The Stowe charters are not described online but can be found in the Catalogue of Stowe Manuscripts, 2 vols. 1895-6.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The Stowe collection can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Some items may require a letter of introduction.

Further information

Useful reference resources include:

How to guides

Access manuscripts and archives

Accessing manuscripts and archives and obtaining a Letter of introduction or recommendation

Find charters, rolls, and seals

How to access medieval and early modern European documentary collections

Find papyri

How to identify papyri and request them