Domesday (or Doomsday) BOOK, or Book of Winchester, a register of the lands of England, framed by order of William the Conqueror. According to some historians it was begun in 1080 or 1083, according to others at the close of 1085; the book itself records its completion in 1086. Persons called the king's justiciaries visited in person or by deputy the greater part of the kingdom, and obtained the required particulars on oath from the sheriffs, lords of manors, parish priests, reeves of hundreds, bailiffs, and villeins of each vill. The record contained a list of the bishops, churches, religious houses, great men, king's manors, king's tenants in capite, and under tenants; the particulars of the name of each place, its holder, its extent, the extent of wood, meadow, and pasture, the ponds and mills, the quantity of live stock, the value of the whole, the homages of each manor, the number of villeins, cotarii, servi, and freemen, and how much each freeman or socman had. Three estimates of the estates were made, viz.: as they were in the time of Edward the Confessor; as they were bestowed by William; and as they were at the time of the survey. The jurors were, moreover, required to state whether any advance could be made in the value.
The returns of the justiciaries were sent to Winchester, and being there digested were entered in two volumes, which were carried about with the king and great seal, or deposited in a chapel or vault of the cathedral called Domus Dei. From the last circumstance the name Domesday is thought by some to be derived. Others ascribe it to a parallel drawn between the decisions of the book and those of the day of doom. The first volume, called the "Great Domesday," consists of 382 folio pages closely written on vellum, and contains the survey of 31 counties; the second, or "Little Domesday," is in quarto, of 450 pages, and comprises the returns from Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk. It has also a list of " invasions," or lands possessed without royal authority. Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Durham do not appear in the record, for which various reasons are assigned. Other counties are described, either wholly or in part, under adjacent divisions. No account is given of Winchester or of London. As a census of the population the Domesday book is of no value, but with regard to the ancient tenure of lands its authority is supreme. It names only 1,400 tenants in capite and 8,000 under tenants, and enumerates only 282,242 inhabitants.
The book is now preserved in the chapter house at Westminster. A facsimile of it was published by order of government in 1783, having been ten years in passing through the press; and in 1816 the commissioners of public records published two supplementary volumes, one containing a general introduction to the survey with indexes, and the other the four similar records called the "Exon Domesday," the Inguisitio Eliensis, the Liber Win-ton, and the "Boldon Book," or survey of Durham. The last of these was made by Bishop Hugh Pudsey in 1183; the Inguisitio Eliensis is of the 13th century; the others are contemporary with the Domesday book. In the exchequer office are two other large volumes under the latter title, which are merely abridgments of the original register. Many interesting particulars relating to the survey are found in Kelham's "Domesday Book illustrated " (8vo, London, 1788), and in Morgan's "England under the Norman Occupation" (1858). A facsimile of the portion of Domesday book relating to Cornwall, produced by photozincography, was published in 1861.