Exon Domesday is one of the most informative surviving documents of the Domesday Inquest, the survey of people and property in England that William the Conqueror ordered in 1085. This is the only surviving manuscript from the phase of the survey which immediately preceded the creation of Great Domesday Book.
The texts on Exon Domesday’s 532 parchment leaves were copied by two dozen scribes, and they describe the five south-western counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. Exon Domesday contains much more detail than was included in the final draft of Great Domesday: it includes tax records (geld accounts), additional values, bynames, details of livestock edited out in Great Domesday, summaries, and accounts of lands which had changed hands. Some pages are missing but even so Exon Domesday is 149 folios longer than Great Domesday, which records thirty-one shires. It has been hypothesised that the surviving pages of Exon Domesday were brought to Exeter by an Anglo-Norman bishop who had worked in the king’s service, possibly William Warelwast (r. 1107–1137) or Osbern fitz Osbern (r. 1072–1103).
When the volume was disbound in 2011 it was discovered that one sheet of parchment bore the imprint of a rusty spearhead. It remains unclear whether the spearhead was placed on the leaf for some ritual purpose or a purely practical one.