New chapter revealed in history of 1,000 year old manuscript

A new chapter in the history of a 1,000-year-old manuscript on display in York Minster’s Undercroft is being uncovered, thanks to a revolutionary new sampling technique.

The York Gospels, which was made in Canterbury and is thought to have been brought to York in around 1020AD, has been analysed using a new biomolecular technique which can help explain how the book was originally put together.

The new approach involves analysing the book’s parchment to identify the type of animal skins used in its original construction. The information will provide insight into the manuscript’s quality and also help to reveal any sections which were included as later additions.

“The new analysis is an exciting opportunity for us to learn more about the Gospels,” explained Peter Young, York Minster’s archivist. “The work will help to explain how the book was originally constructed, the species and origins of the animals from which the pages are made and therefore the origin of the book and its relationship to contemporary books which are undergoing the same analysis.”

Results so far show the Gospels is of a high quality being made mostly from calf, with small and later sections made from sheep skin.

The work has been carried out by experts at the University of York and the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Details of the process and their findings so far will be presented by Dr Sarah Fiddyment, of the University of York’s Department of Archaeology, at a talk on Friday 12 June as part of the city-wide Festival of Ideas.

The York Gospels, which is still used in services at York Minster today, is on display in the cathedral’s Undercroft, where visitors can see, touch and hear 2000 years of history, from the remains of Roman barracks beneath the Minster to its modern day custodians.

Admission to the Undercroft is included in your standard admission price.

For further details about the Festival of Ideas visit and for more information about visiting York Minster visit


For media enquiries please contact:

Leanne Woodhurst – Communications Manager – t: 01904 559545 m: 07557 110718

Sharon Atkinson – Director of Communications – t: 01904 557248 m: 07785 615457