Book of Nunnaminster

The Book of Nunnaminster (London, British Library, Harley MS 2965) is a 9th-century Anglo-Saxon prayerbook. It was written in the kingdom of Mercia, using an "insular" hand (as used in the British Isles), related to Carolingian minuscule. It was probably later owned by Ealhswith, wife of Alfred the Great. It is related to, but of an earlier date than, the Book of Cerne, and also to the Royal Prayerbook and the Harleian prayerbook. Like Cerne it contains the Passion narratives of the four Gospels and a collection of non-liturgical prayers, many of which relate to the Passion. The Book of Nunnaminster shares some poems with the Book of Cerne. It also includes some decorated initials.

The Book of Nunnaminster
British Library, Harley MS 2965
Medieval manuscript leaf bearing 13 lines of Latin script in dark brown & orange ink. Lines 8–13 indent to fit a large initial ‘d’ in dark brown ink with red & green washes. The stem of the ‘d’ transforms into the head of a cat, its long tongue sticking out & tying itself into knots.
Zoomorphic initial ‘d’: Book of Nunnaminster, f. 16v
TypePrayer book
Place of originEngland, S. (Mercia, diocese of Worcester?)
Language(s)Latin, with Old English
MaterialParchment, ink
Size215 × 160 (175 × 140) mm
ConditionFirst quire missing
ScriptInsular minuscule
ContentsGospel extracts; prayers
Illumination(s)3 large initials with penwork, some zoomorphic. Smaller initials with coloured washes and red dots.[1]
OtherMember of the Southumbrian 'Tiberius Group'

The 'Nunnaminster' was another name for St Mary's Abbey, Winchester.


  1. ^ British Library. "Detailed record for Harley 2965". Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. Retrieved 11 Feb 2022.

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