Osbern of Canterbury, Life of St Dunstan


Osbern (b. c. 1050, d. c. 1090) was an English monk of Christ Church, Canterbury, known for writing a Life of Archbishop Dunstan (d. 988). Dunstan was one of the leading figures of the monastic reform movement in Anglo-Saxon England, and was later canonised as a saint. Produced during the last quarter of the 11th century, this manuscript is thought to be the earliest of the text, of which around 20 copies survive.  

Two historiated initials (letters that include images) appear within the book. One marking the beginning of the prologue to the Life features an angel alongside a knight with a shield and spear. The other appears at the beginning of the Life itself and shows a seated scribe, labelled OSBEARNUS.

By the 14th century, the manuscript was in the possession of Dover priory; it was mentioned in the 1389 catalogue of the monastic library there. The catalogue indicates that other texts were once part of the same volume. These included Osbern’s Vita Sancti Elphegi (Life of St Elphege) and the Vita Sancti Odoni (Life of St Odo), written by Eadmer of Canterbury (d. c. 1126).

Full title:
Osbern of Canterbury, Vita sancti Dunstani
c. 1090–Early 12th century, Canterbury
Osbern of Canterbury
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Arundel MS 16

Full catalogue details

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