Little Domesday Book

Little Domesday Book – Alecto Historical Editions – E 31/1/1, E 31/1/2, and E 31/1/3 – National Archives (London, United Kingdom)

Royal Chancery, Winchester (England) β€” 1086

The counterpart to the famous Great Domesday Book: not a doomsday proclamation, but amazingly detailed records on the lands of Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk as well as their inhabitants

  1. Describes the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk which are lacking in the Great Domesday Book

  2. King William the Conqueror (ca. 1028–1087) commissioned a survey of his newly acquired kingdom in 1085

  3. The King’s men combed the length and breadth of England to determine the tax burden of the country's towns and villages

Little Domesday Book

E 31/1/1, E 31/1/2, and E 31/1/3 National Archives (London, United Kingdom)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Little Domesday Book

Twenty years after he won the Kingdom of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror ordered a census and land survey of his new realm that would not be surpassed in scope and detail until the late 19th century. The collected data was used by the kings of England to determine the taxes and tributes owed to them. The Little Domesday Book contains detailed records on the counties of Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, making it an essential addition to the Great Domesday Book, which covers nearly all the remaining lands of England. Both the census and the resulting manuscripts were completed in 1086 and helped the Normans establish the wealthiest and best organized kingdom of the High Middle Ages.


β€œThen, at the midwinter [1085], was the king in Gloucester with his council ... . After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out β€˜How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire’.”
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

At the behest of King William the Conqueror (c. 1028–1087), the results of these censuses were recorded and are preserved to us today in two codices: the Great and Little Domesday Books. While the Great Domesday Book lives up to its name not only in terms of size, listing most of the English villages and towns in highly standardized form, the Little Domesday Book testifies to an earlier state of editing of the data collected during the land survey and census. Here, the counties of Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk missing from its large counterpart are described unabridged and thus in much greater detail. For example, it contains much more information on livestock, farm implements such as plows, as well as pastures, meadows, ponds, and mills.

A local collaborative work

The detailed reproduction of the collected data is also less consistent in the Little Domesday Book, so that, for example, the arrangement of the estates differs and their size is given in different measurement units. This is due to the local scribes who wrote the document: three scribes did the main work - one for each county - and four others assisted them. The scribes also each followed different language conventions, which also distinguishes the little from the great Domesday Book paleographically.
The appearance of the Little Domesday Book is also different. Although it also often makes use of red or rubricated display script for headlines, the text has been written in a single column on much smaller folios. These make up a rather small thick book that outwardly has little in common with its larger counterpart.

An innovation in medieval economy

The aim and purpose of both works, respectively the 'great inventory', was the written record of all English lands and possessions, which was to serve William as well as his successors in estimating the amount of taxes and other duties that could be levied, and the extent of the royal land holdings. And today, the *Domesday Book** is an invaluable source for the study of medieval England for historians and economists as well.


Size / Format
3 volumes: 902 pages / 27.0 Γ— 17.0 cm
Protogothic Rustic capitals
Display script and rubrics
Census and land survey of Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk (Addition to the Great Domesday Book)
William I, the Conqueror, King of England

Available facsimile editions:
Little Domesday Book – Alecto Historical Editions – E 31/1/1, E 31/1/2, and E 31/1/3 – National Archives (London, United Kingdom)
Alecto Historical Editions – Salisbury, 2000
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Detail Picture

Little Domesday Book

Map of England at the year 1086/87

Additional maps attached to the facsimile show the extent of the 'great inventory' commissioned by William the Conqueror. The aim and purpose was to list the English lands and possessions. While the Great Domesday Book contains much of the English villages and towns in standardised form, the Little Domesday Book lists the collected data from an earlier land survey and census. In particular, the eastern counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk are described here with particular clarity. The brown dots on the map mark the identifiable villages and manors. The red dots are parishes that are distinguished by the presence of burgesses. The blue crosses mark all monasteries, while bishoprics are marked by a blue cross with a red dot in the middle.

Little Domesday Book – Alecto Historical Editions – E 31/1/1, E 31/1/2, and E 31/1/3 – National Archives (London, United Kingdom)
Single Page

Little Domesday Book


The Little Domesday Book describes the counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk in an unabridged and particularly detailed manner. The first page lists the respective landowners, such as King William himself but also bishops and counts. The rest of the work lists detailed information on livestock, agricultural implements such as ploughs, but also pastures, meadows, ponds and mills. This accurate written record of all English lands and possessions makes the Domesday Book a valuable source for the study of medieval England.

The county of Norfolk is in East Anglia in the east of England. The Angles, after whom East Anglia was named, settled here from the fifth century AD and later became the so-called north folk. This later gave rise to the name Norfolk. The counterpart is the adjoining county of Suffolk in the south, which was formed from the so-called south folk or "southern people".

Little Domesday Book – Alecto Historical Editions – E 31/1/1, E 31/1/2, and E 31/1/3 – National Archives (London, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Little Domesday Book

Alecto Historical Editions – Salisbury, 2000

Publisher: Alecto Historical Editions – Salisbury, 2000
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Binding: The facsimiles come in a set of 3 bound volumes, one each for Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, which are accompanied by 3 clamshell boxes.
Commentary: 1 volume by Pamela Taylor, David Roffe, Mark Bailey, Maureen Jurkowski, Timothy Cooper, David Pelteret, and Carolinne White
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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