Random peptide libraries (RPL) displayed on the surface of a filamentous bacteriophage can be used to identify peptide ligands that interact with target molecules. We have used a 15‐amino acid residue RPL displayed on bacteriophage M13 to identify the core residues within the epitope of a monoclonal antibody (mAb) A16 which interacts with a continuous epitope restricted to amino acid residues 9 to 19 in the N‐terminal region of glycoprotein D of herpes simplex virus type 1 (gD‐1). The single peptide sequence obtained after three rounds of selection contained identical residues at three positions compared to the authentic gD‐1 sequence. Synthetic peptides were prepared based on the sequence of the original epitope and the phage‐derived epitope. The binding constants (Ka) with mAb A16 were determined using surface plasmon resonance (SPR) biosensor technology. The RPL‐derived peptide and peptide 9–19 of gD‐1 had approximately the same affinity for mAb A16. This suggests that those residues within the epitope that are essential for binding were identified. The synthesis of shorter versions of the RPL‐derived peptide restricted the binding region to seven amino acid residues. These results show that minimal information retrieved from the screening of an RPL combined with peptide synthesis can characterize the epitope of an mAb with high resolution. Immunization of mice with the phage‐derived peptide protected against a challenge with a lethal dose of herpes simplex virus type 1 equally well as the gD‐1 derived peptide.