THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

12 July 2012

How Did We Choose Our Harley Science Manuscripts?

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The Emperor Charlemagne kneeling in front of a plant pierced by an arrow, in Giovanni Cadamosto's illustrated herbal. The plant is called 'Carlina' and the caption explains that an angel advised Charlemagne to eat it in order to be purged of poison (London, British Library, MS Harley 3736, f. 20r).

When selecting which Harley science manuscripts to digitise, we decided to interpret the word "scientific" in the broadest terms. One of our goals has been to make as wide a range of material available to as many users as possible, on the grounds that researchers accessing our descriptions and images will be working in different fields. You may have noticed that we have defined "science" to incorporate astrology, astronomy, botany, the computus, mathematics, natural history and veterinary medicine, among other topics. We hope that our selection will cater to most people's tastes.

Below you will find a list of recent additions to the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts website. The manuscripts in question include the works of Alanus ab Insula, Albertus Magnus, Alcuin, Alexander Neckham, Giovanni Cadamosto, Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon, and date from the ninth century to the sixteenth. We shall shortly update you on more items digitised as part of our Harley Science Project.

Harley 1  Miscellaneous treatises on astronomy, astrology, mathematics and geometry (England, 13th-14th century)

Harley 6  Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, and Alexander Neckam, Corrogationes Promethei (England or France, 13th century)

Harley 55  Anglo-Saxon miscellany including medical remedies and laws (England, 11th century)

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The opening page of Bald's Leechbook (London, British Library, MS Harley 55, f. 1r).

Harley 57  Albertus Magnus, De mineralibus et lapidibus (Italy, 14th century)

Harley 80  Collection of texts on astronomy, optics, astrology and stones (England, 13th-15th century)

Harley 208  Letters of Alcuin and Dungal (France, 9th century)

Harley 273  Compilation of religious and secular texts including charms relating to wounds, bloodletting, fever, cancer, gout, childbirth and toothache (England, 14th century)

Harley 585  Medical miscellany (England, 10th century-11th century)

Harley 625  Collection of astronomical and mathematical treatises and tables (England, 1350-1569)

Harley 866  Miscellaneous texts on rhetoric, mathematics and other sciences (England, c 1390-c 1410)

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Alanus ab Insula (Alain de Lille), De planctu naturae (London, British Library, MS Harley 866, f. 17r).

Harley 941  Miscellany including treatises relating to astrology, magic, astronomy and geography (England, 15th century)

Harley 978  Collection of poems and musical, calendrical and medical texts (England, 13th century)

Harley 3719  Collection of astronomical, calendrical, medical and philosophical texts (England, 13th-16th century)

Harley 3734  Toledan tables (Spain, 13th-15th century)

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Three circular diagrams, the central of which is a table in red and black, likely for determining the date of Easter. The lower diagram appears unfinished, while the upper circle contains a line drawing in brown of two Franciscan friars and an angel (London, British Library, MS Harley 3734, f. 1v).

Harley 3735  Treatises on astronomy and the computus (England, 1264-1293)

Harley 3736  Giovanni Cadamosto, Herbal, with treatises on food, poisons and remedies, and the properties of stones (Italy or Germany, 16th century)

Harley 3737  Alexander Neckham, De naturis rerum (England, 12th century)

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