THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

Bringing our medieval manuscripts to life

Introduction

What do Magna Carta, Beowulf and the world's oldest Bibles have in common? They are all cared for by the British Library's Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Section. This blog publicises our digitisation projects and other activities. Follow us on Twitter: @blmedieval. Read more

19 April 2014

Lorsch Manuscripts in the British Library

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Seven manuscripts that were compiled in the 9th-century in the scriptorium of the former monastic library of Abbey Lorsch are today held at the British Library.  These codices have now been digitized – together with five further works connected to the Abbey – and included in the Virtual Monastic Library of Lorsch, at Bibliotheca Laureshamensis digital.  Amongst the 70 institutions world-wide that today hold Lorsch manuscripts, the British Library has one of the larger collections, together with the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, the National Austrian Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in Rome.

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Miniature of the Evangelist St Mark, at the beginning of a Gospel lectionary (the 'Odalricus Peccator Gospel Lectionary'), Germany (Lorsch), first half of the 11th century, Harley MS 2970, f. 2v

The Abbey of Lorsch –today in a small town in Hesse in Germany – was one of the key centres of knowledge in the medieval period.  During the reign of Charlemagne and his successors it reached the height of its prosperity and created an exceptional library as well as a proficient scriptorium.  Library catalogues from the 9th century testify that the collection comprised nearly 500 manuscripts, an impressive figure.  The medieval library held works on theology, historiography, monasticism and asceticism, grammar as well as school books.  Of the monastic buildings in Lorsch only few have remained, but its heritage and significance are such that it was recognized as a UNESCO-World Heritage site in 1991.

The Abbey and its library were dissolved under the reign of the Elector Palatine Otto-Henry (1556-1559) and integrated into Heidelberg’s Bibliotheca Palatina. From there the largest surviving collection of Lorsch manuscripts was brought to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. In the later medieval period, several codices were brought to the monastery of Arnstein.  Four of these are now in the British Library.

Lorsch screenshot

Based on the work of two German palaeographers, Bernhard Bischoff (1906-1991) and Hartmut Hoffmann (1930), more than 300 manuscripts from the Abbey can be identified, now in 13 countries.  The online reconstruction of the library collection is a cooperation project by Heidelberg University Library, the Verwaltung der Staatlichen Schlösser und Gärten Hessen and the UNESCO-World Heritage Site Abbey Lorsch. The project Bibliotheca Laureshamensis digital was launched in 2010 and will be completed in 2014, the 1250th anniversary of the foundation of the Abbey (in 764). The aim of the project is to unite virtually all of dispersed manuscripts in one online platform and thereby make this remarkable collection once again accessible and researchable. Alongside the digitization, on the website all of the codices are fully described and can be searched in a separate database.

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Incipit page at the beginning of Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate, De Synodis and Contra arianos, Germany (Lorsch), 1st half of the 9th century, Harley MS 3115, f. 1v

An overview of the manuscripts from the collection of the British Library which have been integrated into the Virtual Monastic Library of Lorsch can be found here.  A PDF file of the manuscript descriptions can also be accessed directly from the corresponding manuscript in the Virtual Library.

All of the British Library’s Lorsch manuscripts are theological texts, including exegetical tractates by Church fathers from late Antiquity, as well as by the Anglo-Saxon Bede, and Theodulf of Orléans. Two other manuscripts were added to the list of Further Manuscripts:  the fragment Arundel MS 501, fol. 13, which was ascribed to Lorsch by Nigel F Palmer, and Cotton MS Vespasian D V, ff. 155r-156r, which contains a poem by Henry of Avranches on Starkenburg castle, which was a property of the abbey in the 13th century.

A full list of the manuscripts recently uploaded is below, along with links to their digital versions on the Bibliotheca Laureshamensis site.  These manuscripts have also been included in the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts portal, and can be found there by searching on the main page.

Add MS 17980:  Bede, In Lucam

Add MS 37328:  Augustine, De opere monachorum, De agone christiano

Arundel MS 37:  Bede, In Ezram et Nehemiam

Arundel MS 386:  Commentary on Psalms 101-150

Arundel MS 501, f. 13:  Hrabanus Maurus, Enarratio super Deuteronomium (ll.xxxvi-xxvii)

Harley MS 2970:  Gospel lectionary

Harley MS 3024:  Theodulf, De spiritu sancto

Harley MS 3032:  Hesychius, In Leviticum

Harley MS 3039:  Augustine, De Genesi contra Manichaeos

Harley MS 3115:  Hilary, De Trinitate; Contra Arianos

Harley MS 5915, ff. 10r-10v:  Justin, Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum

Cotton MS Vespasian D V, ff. 155r-156r:  Poem by Henry of Avranches

 

- Alexandra Büttner, Bibliotheca Laureshamensis - digital Virtuelle Klosterbibliothek Lorsch 

17 April 2014

Internship in the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Section

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The British Library is pleased to be able to offer an internship in the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts section of the History and Classics Department for a doctoral or post-doctoral student in history, history of art, medieval language or other relevant subject.

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Detail of a miniature of a woman reading moral proverbs at the beginning of the

'Proverbes moraux', from Christine de Pizan's Book of the Queen, France (Paris), c. 1410 - c. 1414, Harley MS 4431, f. 259v

The intern will be involved in all aspects of the work of the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts section, including responding to enquiries, providing talks for students and patrons, selecting and presenting manuscripts for display in our exhibition gallery, assisting in exhibition preparation, and cataloguing, thereby gaining insight into various curatorial duties and aspects of collection care.  During the internship at the Library, the intern will enjoy privileged access to printed and manuscript research material, and will work alongside specialists with wide-ranging and varied expertise. 

A major focus of the internship will be to enhance the online Digitised Manuscripts and Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts websites by creating and supplementing catalogue entries for medieval manuscripts and accompanying images, working under the supervision of the Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts.  The internship will also provide an opportunity for the student to assist in presenting manuscripts to a general audience in our major Magna Carta anniversary exhibition, exhibitions in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, and to develop research skills in medieval and Renaissance history and art history. 

The programme is only open to students who are engaged actively in research towards, or have recently completed a PhD in a subject area relevant to the study of pre-1600 illuminated or other medieval manuscripts, who have eligibility to work in the UK. 

The term of internship is either full time (36 hours per week) for six months, or part time for twelve months, depending on how many hours the successful candidate can offer.  Applicants are asked to specify which work pattern they would prefer in the application.  The salary is £8.80 per hour. The internship will start in July 2014 after relevant security clearances are obtained.

The selection process will include questions about the date, origin, and decoration of a particular manuscript to be shown at the interview.

For further information about the position, please contact Kathleen Doyle, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at Kathleen.Doyle@bl.uk.

To apply, please visit www.bl.uk/careers quoting vacancy ref: COL000490 and upload a CV and Cover Letter. The Cover Letter should include answers to the following three questions:

    1.     Please give examples of your experience in cataloguing medieval manuscripts.

    2.     Please provide examples of your experience in writing about your research for a general             audience.

    3.     Please give an example of how you have adapted your own communicating style to deal with             different people and situations.

Closing Date: Thursday 15th May 2014

Interview Date: Monday 2nd June 2014

15 April 2014

The Next Giant List of Digitised Manuscript Hyperlinks

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It's that time of year again, friends - when we inflict our quarterly massive list of manuscript hyperlinks upon an unsuspecting public.  As always, this list contains everything that has been digitised up to this point by the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts department, complete with hyperlinks to each record on our Digitised Manuscripts site.  There will be another updated list here on the blog in three months; you can download the current version here: Download BL Medieval and Earlier Digitised Manuscripts Master List 10.04.13.  Have fun!

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Miniature of Joachim in the fields among the shepherds, rejoicing in joy about our new spreadsheet, from a Book of Hours, Netherlands (Utrecht or Delft), c. 1410 - 1420, Add MS 50005, f. 3v