Model books, examples for medieval scribes to copy from and adapt in their work, are like illuminated manuscripts in concentrated form
. A post from medieval historian Erik Kwakkel's excellent new blog
, a longform complement to his excellent Tumblr
(Digitized Medieval Manuscripts App) is a website that links to more than 300 libraries in the world. Each one of these contains medieval manuscripts that can be browsed for free. The DMMapp is a product of Sexy Codicology
, an independent project focused on medieval illuminated manuscripts and social media. It maintains a great blog about medieval manuscripts
, especially those that are available online.
The Emily Dickinson Archive
is a collection of high resolution digital images of Emily Dickinson's handwritten manuscripts. Here are, for instance, Because I Could Not Stop for Death
, Tell the Truth but Tell It Slant
, I Dwell in Possibility
, They Shut Me Up in Prose
and I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died
. The whole collection is fully searchable and the images include the text of the poems as they were written down by Dickinson. The archive is a project of Harvard's Houghton Library but many other institutions provided manuscripts
. Perhaps the best place to start is to simply browse the poems
The British Library today unveiled
a major addition to its website: Discovering Literature
, a portal to digitized collections and supporting material
. The first installment, Romantics and Victorians
, includes work from Austen
, the Brontës
, and Blake
, and forthcoming modules will expand coverage of the site to encompass everything from Beowulf to the present day.
Bonfire of the Humanities.
"Nobody goes to Timbuktu, right? Patrick Symmes did, to discover what happened when jihadi rebels set out to burn one of the world’s finest collections
of ancient manuscripts
. Bouncing around by truck, boat, and boots, he got an intimate look at West Africa’s most mythic locale." [Via] [more inside]
"As anyone who is familiar with 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts can attest, images of armed knights fighting snails are common
, especially in marginalia. But the ubiquity of these depictions doesn’t make them any less strange, and we had a long discussion about what such pictures might mean."
Bess of Hardwick's Letters
brings together the correspondence of one of the most powerful women
of the Elizabethan era, the builder of one of England's greatest houses
and the founder of one of its greatest political dynasties
. As well as telling the story of Bess's life
, it offers an introduction to early modern letters
and a guide to reading early modern handwriting
Weird, funny, surreal, fun, silly, bawdy, macabre, cool and strangely beautiful
. The Discarded Image
is a Tumblr collection of Medieval illustrations gleaned from various illuminated manuscripts, bestiaries, books describing the cosmology of the Middle Ages, ordered and maintained by a celestial hierarchy
. The Discarded Image
is also the name of CS Lewis' last book, about the fascinating Medieval mindset and world picture. [more inside]
walking on your shit...
since the 15th century. (via
In 1731, a fire broke out in Ashburnham House, where the greatest collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, the Cottonian Library
, was then being stored. Frantically, the trustees raced into the burning library and hurled priceless and unique manuscripts out the windows in order to save them. One of these was the sole manuscript of Beowulf
. Today, bearing the charred edges of its brush with extinction, it's been digitized by the British Library
, along with a group of other treasures
including Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Arundel and the Harley Golden Gospels.
Early English Laws
is a project to publish online and in print new editions and translations of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced up to the time of Magna Carta 1215. [more inside]
The Royal Spanish Library has put online today an interactive version
of Leonardo da Vinci's Madrid Codices I & II
. There are transcriptions of the text (in Spanish and Italian, click "T" on the bottom menu), animations of many of the mechanical contraptions (click play button "ver animacion") and the "Indice" in the bottom menu organizes the folios by theme.
For more than two years, scholars and imaging scientists have been using advanced scanning techniques to recover the mostly illegible contents of an 1871 field diary kept by the British explorer David Livingstone in Africa. Low on paper and ink, the explorer had resorted to writing on newspaper sheets, with ink made from berries, and over time the original document had become almost impossible to read. Now the team has unveiled an online “multispectral critical edition” with images, transcriptions, and relevant notes, making Livingstone’s first-person account accessible again. They’ve also created a “Livingstone Spectral Images Archive” to give anyone who wants it direct access to the images, transcriptions, and metadata the project has created, no strings attached. Almost everything in both the edition and the archive comes with a Creative Commons license that allows the contents to be reused with attribution. [more inside]
A researcher at St. Andrews University
is using a tool called a densitometer to measure which pages in medieval manuscripts are the dirtiest, and therefore the most frequently read. The complete (and well-illustrated) study is available online from the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art
. [more inside]
John Cage Unbound, A Living Archive
is a multimedia exhibition created by the New York Public Library documenting their collection of videos
, original notes and manuscripts
of contemporary American composer and music theorist John Cage
(1912-1992). "Cage believed that, following his detailed directions, anyone could make music from any kind of instrument" so the NYPL is asking visitors how they would bring his music to life, by submitting videos of their own interpretations of Cage’s work for possible inclusion in the archive. For more extensive collections of John Cage resources, see: WNYC: A John Cage Web Reliquary
and Josh Rosen's fan page
. [more inside]
Pages from Beckett's wartime manuscripts
- from Watt
, written in ink and colored crayons between 1940 and 1945, numbers 945 pages in six notebooks and loose sheets. More from Watt
, part of a larger 2006 Samuel Beckett Centenary Exhibition, Fathoms from Anywhere
The Morgan Library Black Hours
, one of the world's most beautiful and striking illuminated manuscripts, has been digitized in its entirety
. Richly decorated in blue and gold on black vellum, it is one of a surviving handful of such manuscripts produced in late 15th century Bruges. (Poorer quality, but still interesting, images of another such work, the Black Hours of Charles the Bold
, are also online.
Signs & Symbols: Decoding Mediaeval & Renaissance Iconography
. An online exhibition from the Dunedin Public Library. Does what is implied on the tin, if you have a grounding in the history of tin-decoration.
Treasures of the Bodleian.
Oxford University's Bodleian Library
will move into a substantially renovated home in 2015. In preparation, it has put online a selection of highlights from the collection, ranging from papyri to Penguins. You can vote for your favorite treasure, and the top vote-getter will go on display when the library reopens
The library of King Matthias I of Hungary, the Bibliotheca Corviniana
, was "the second greatest collection of books in Europe in the Renaissance period, after that of the Vatican." Destroyed following the 15th century Turkish invasion of Hungary
(despite the efforts of Matthias' vassal Vlad III the Impaler
), a few surviving codices have been digitized
by the National Széchényi Library and the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
. [more inside]
Ancient books inherited in private family libraries could change our knowledge of late mediaeval arab culture, but most are hidden in private libraries.
Gripping article about the unknown treasures that may be lurking in Mauritanian family libraries, considering the little that has already been found, resistance to cataloguing and problematic future if the region continues to be destabilised. How the manuscripts are famous in the muslim world.More on the open libraries and archive efforts.
Some years back on bbc i saw an explorer track down some ancient ethiopian christian manuscripts to an ethiopian monastery, only to be shown some burnt remains from a fire a few months back. What treasures must lurk in this continent, and with digital cameras, how easy to document them without damage or intruding on their owners! Being christians, there are pictures
and some history.
In honor of the museum's 50th anniversary, the Anne Frank House
has created a virtual tour
of the Secret Annex and the rest of the house
. The complete manuscript
of Anne's diary has also gone on display at the museum for the first time
"Seventy two specimens of castes in India"
. This illustrated manuscript made in southern India in 1837 consists of 72 full-colour hand-painted images of men and women of the various castes and religious and ethnic groups found in Madura, India
at that time.
(recommended) all the images, in very good resolution, from Yale's Beinecke Library
. [more inside]
The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas today announced
that it has acquired the papers
of David Foster Wallace. The collection includes "manuscript materials
for Wallace's books, stories and essays; research materials; Wallace's college and graduate school writings; juvenilia, including poems, stories and letters; teaching materials and books.
" The Center's blog has
Timelines: Sources from History
is a decade-by-decade visual index to the holdings of the British Library from the 1210s to the present.
Visitors to the Morgan Library
in New York will have a rare opportunity to view one of the great masterworks
of medieval illumination, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves
. But if you don't have a chance to visit, all 157 miniatures have been digitized
An expert in Elizabethan handwriting
is attempting to decipher
the inscriptions on a 400-year-old slate tablet discovered by archaeologists
working at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America
. Want to take a crack at it yourself? First, you're going to want to take English Handwriting, 1500-1700: An Online Course
. Then, keep your skills sharp with a daily dose of Early Modern Paleography
. (This week's images will be well known to a certain MeFite
The papers of Edward Alleyn,
the Elizabethan actor-manager, are now available online in a digital edition. Most of what we know about the London theatre in the age of Shakespeare comes from this archive; highlights include the only surviving example of a 'part' or script written out for an actor in an Elizabethan play
) and the contract for building the Fortune playhouse
in 1600, just a year after the building of the Globe. Sadly, the archive doesn't include any manuscripts relating to Shakespeare, because Alleyn worked for the Admiral's Men, one of the two main theatre companies in London, whereas Shakespeare worked for the competition (the Lord Chamberlain's Men), though that didn't stop the nineteenth-century forger John Payne Collier from faking a few documents of his own to fill the gap
Graduel à l'usage de Saint-Dié
digitizes a French gradual
(choir music for the Mass) created in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. For more information about what's what, see the handy definitions offered by the British Library
or Celebrating the Liturgy's Books
. [more inside]
Jay Walker's Library
was just profiled by Wired [via]
, but they failed to mention where
many of those books came from. Big players like Maggs
, Simon Finch
and the Baumans
still compose most of the rare book world. (Heritage is gone but Michael Sharp
got four of their employees.) They're all excellent places to shop if you're building an Überlibrary, but, if you're Jay Walker, you start with Phillip J. Pirages. [more inside]
The Prague Bible (1489)
is a splendid three-volume MS of the Tanakh, once in the possession of Enlightenment luminary Moses Mendelssohn
. There are several other beautiful examples of medieval and early modern Hebrew MSS online, including the Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts
collection (New York Public Library), the Illuminated Haggadah Exhibit
(Klau University), selections from Moses Maimonides' Moreh Nevukim
(Leiden University), and the Prato Haggadah
(Jewish Theological Seminary). See also the introduction to the Hebraic Collections
at the Library of Congress.
Columbia University's Digital Scriptorium
is a database of high quality scans from medieval and renaissance manuscripts. The highlights section
alone is breathtaking, but you can search and browse
through over 5000 manuscripts and almost 25000 individual images.
"Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures: Poland's Heritage
is an international educational exhibition which presents the history of tolerance and cohabitation of various ethnic groups in the territory of Polish-Lithuanian Commowealth and is addressed primarily to foreigners all around the world"
. This is achieved via a very beautiful flash site.
The University of South Carolina recently completed an ambitious survey
of all medieval texts in the state for an exhibit at the university library. All the works were scanned and archived electronically. However, not only can you view
the texts online, you can hear the university's chorus sing
(MP3) the musical manuscripts. [more inside]
Masterpieces of Persian Painting
"The atrocity of raging wars
, the fainting of Leili
(the beloved) and Majnoun
(the lover) and the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) ascension
to the celestial sphere while floating in light—all reflect the reality and image of the pure heart of the artists
who viewed the world, its Creator and creatures with love." [via
The Benedictine Vivarium "
In the Benedictine tradition of reverence for human thought and creativity, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library preserves manuscripts, printed books and art at Saint John's University and undertakes photographic projects in regions throughout the world." --
Nearly half of HMML's holdings derive from libraries in Austria and Germany, but HMML also houses significant collections from Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, England, and Ethiopia. It holds archival materials, and of particular importance are the Archives of the Knights of Malta, housed in the National Library in Valletta, and the Archives of the Roman Inquisition, located at the Cathedral Museum in Mdina." EXAMPLE PAGES --
and more - if this kind of thing interests you, then search around - I've only begun scratching the surface. Nb. See browser setup info at bottom of page in main link
Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library's online collection of digital images -
over 90,000 of them. A vast labyrinth of high resolution digital images and photo negatives from thousands of rare books and manuscripts. Search by keyword to access scans sorted by category. Find one you like and click on the call number to bring up all images from that title. Searching for "illustrations" brings up 31 pages of scans from hundreds of titles. Examine 16th century mechanical illustrations by Georg Agricola
, two full pages of photo negatives from William Blake's Jerusalem
, a collection of artwork demonstrating knightly protocol
("medieval" is another keyword search yielding a bonanza of good stuff), and so much more. The interface leaves something to be desired but the sheer amount of works available for viewing makes it all worth it.
The Fantastic in Art and Fiction.
The Cornell Institute for Digital Collections presents an online image-bank that "provides a visual resource for the study of the Fantastic or of the supernatural in fiction and in art" from the danse macabre
to medical oddities
to creatures straight out of Hell (and Heaven)
. The university's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
has put together a captivating little collection of the marvelous
, the mysterious
and the magical
. You can search through all the images at once
or search by book title
. (Some images may be slightly NSFW.)
claims to be the largest exhibition of medieval illuminated manuscripts since 1908. To see all 200 exhibits, you'll have to visit the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge; but 65 of the best, including the sixth-century Gospels of St Augustine
and the recently discovered Macclesfield Psalter
, can be viewed online
100 Milestone Documents.
High-quality viewable and downloadable documents of American History, from 1776 to 1965. Of course the usual suspects
are available, but you can also see items like the Patent for the Cotton Gin (1794)
and the Check for the Purchase of Alaska (1868)
. Also downloadable PDFs, transcripts, and background information on each document. (Warning: flash)