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Medieval manuscripts blog

14 posts from December 2016

30 December 2016

Christmas Quiz: The Answers

Did you have fun trying to answer our end-of-the-year quiz? Did some of the questions stump you? Fear not, because the answers are below. Well done, everyone, who attempted to answer them!

Holiday Traditions

Question 1: Which manuscript — which provided our calendar pages this year — was a Christmas gift for a young King Henry VI?

Answer: The Bedford Hours (Add MS 18850)

Question 2: Christmas was not the usual occasion for exchanging gifts in elite circles in western Europe. 12-year-old Princess Elizabeth, aged 12, made a prayerbook (as in, she translated all the prayers, copied them out, and even embroidered the binding) to give to her father, King Henry VIII, on which day?

Answer: New Year’s Day. The prayerbook (Royal MS 7 D X) is mentioned in this blogpost.

Question 3: The Royal Prayerbook (Royal MS 2 A XX) includes the first written reference to which creatures, in Old English literature were associated with mental illness, demons and beauty.

Answer: Elves

Question 4: Many people now use air travel over the holidays. But who was the first recorded Englishman to fly?

Answer: Eilmer/Æthelmaer of Malmesbury

Food and Drink

Question 5: Next time you drink hot chocolate, which manuscript collector and physician should you thank for popularising it in Britain?

Answer: Sir Hans Sloane

Question 6: Which manuscript features a recipe for a ‘tostee’?

Answer: The Forme of Cury

Picture Round

Picture 1

Question 7: This image of the Nativity comes from Royal MS 17 E VII, f. 134r, a Bible historiale probably made for which future French king who would later build the Louvre’s library?

Answer: Charles V

Picture 2

Question 8: This busier Nativity scene can be found in which Psalter, currently on display in New York?

Answer: The Melisende Psalter (Egerton MS 1139)

Picture 3

Question 9: The above scenes of shepherds and wise men are part of which Psalter, currently on show in the V&A’s Opus Anglicanum exhibition?

Answer: The Grandisson Psalter (Add MS 21926)

Planning for the Year Ahead

Question 10: Hunters wanting to catch a unicorn would need to bring what with them, according to medieval bestiaries.

Answer: A maiden/virgin http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2016/12/fantastic-beasts-at-the-british-library.html

Question 11: According to Petrus Alfonsi and his French translators, how can you test if someone is a true friend?

Answer: If they help you hide something which they believe is a dead body.

Question 12: Why is the Feast of St Matthias sometimes celebrated twice?

Answer: In leap years, it is celebrated on both 29 February and 24 February.

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27 December 2016

Christmas Quiz 2016

How well have you been following our Medieval Manuscripts Blog this year? Find out with our end-of-the-year quiz! We will post the answers in a few days: good luck everyone!

Donatus

Donatus, trying to solve our Christmas Quiz (Arundel MS 43, f. 80v)

Holiday Traditions

  1. Which manuscript — which provided our calendar pages this year — was a Christmas gift for a young King Henry VI?
  2. Christmas was not the usual occasion for exchanging gifts in elite circles in western Europe. Princess Elizabeth, aged 12, made a prayerbook (as in, she translated all the prayers, copied them out, and even embroidered the binding) to give to her father, King Henry VIII, on which day?
  3. The Royal Prayerbook (Royal MS 2 A XX) includes the first written reference to which creatures, in Old English literature associated with mental illness, demons, and beauty.
  4. Many people now use air travel over the holidays. But who was the first recorded Englishman to fly?

Food and Drink

  1. Next time you drink hot chocolate, which manuscript collector and physician should you thank for popularising it in Britain?
  2. Which manuscript features a recipe for a ‘tostee’?

Picture Round

Picture 1

  1. This image of the Nativity comes from Royal MS 17 E VII, f. 134r, a Bible historiale probably made for which future French king who would later build the Louvre’s library?

Picture 2

8. This busier Nativity scene can be found in which Psalter, currently on display in New York?

Picture 3

9. The above scenes of shepherds and wise men are part of which Psalter, currently on show in the V&A’s Opus Anglicanum exhibition?

Planning for the Year Ahead

  1. Hunters wanting to catch a unicorn would need to bring what with them, according to medieval bestiaries.
  2. According to Petrus Alfonsi and his French translators, how can you test if someone is a true friend?
  3. Why is the Feast of St Matthias sometimes celebrated twice?

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24 December 2016

Christmas Coronations

Throughout the Middle Ages, Christmas was a season of festivities and celebrations, just as it is today. 25 December was certainly a high point of this festive season, beginning the twelve days of Christmas which would last until Epiphany. On three occasions in the early medieval period, the Christmas Day celebrations may have been more extravagant than usual: on Christmas Day in 800, 855 and 1066, merrymakers also celebrated the coronations of the very first Holy Roman Emperor and two English kings with interesting legacies.

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Blessing for Christmas Day in the 'Anderson Pontifical': British Library Additional MS 57337, f. 104r.

On Christmas Day in the year 800, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in the city of Rome. This was a momentous occasion in the Christian West, where Imperial authority had ceased to be acknowledged after the fall of the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476. By the end of the 8th century, Charlemagne’s military success had left in him control of a large part of medieval Europe and he had acquired a special relationship with the Pope. By crowning Charlemagne as the first Holy Roman Emperor, Pope Leo III was acknowledging Charlemagne’s secular authority and his role as defender of the Christian faith throughout Western Christendom.

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Detail of a miniature of Charlemagne being crowned emperor, in the second book of Charlemagne's life in Les Grandes Chroniques de France: British Library Royal MS 16 G VI, f. 141v.

Another early medieval king to have supposedly been crowned on Christmas day is King Edmund of East Anglia, who reigned from 855 until his death in 869. Very little is known about Edmund'ss early life, as no contemporary written records survive from his reign. The first-known record focuses more on the circumstances of Edmund's death than his achievements in life. The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ described how Edmund was killed by the Great Heathen Army of Danes which had recently attacked other parts of Anglo-Saxon England. This is the same Great Heathen Army which was fought off by Alfred the Great of Wessex over the next decade.

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Miniature of Edmund tied to a tree and being shot full of arrows by two Scandinavians: British Library Harley MS 4826, f. 4r.

According to tradition, Edmund died during battle with the Danes after he refused their demands to renounce his Christian faith. This refusal transformed Edmund into a martyr. Over the following two centuries, a popular cult developed around his memory and was centred on the church where his remains were buried. The town which grew around this church was so associated with the cult of St Edmund that it took on his name, becoming the modern-day  Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. In the 10th century, the monks of Ramsey Abbey commissioned Abbo of Fleury to write a Latin account of the saint’s life and early cult. This text was later translated into Old English by the Anglo-Saxon, Ælfric of Eynsham, a well-known writer of many old English saint’s Lives, homilies and biblical commentaries. Much of what is now known about Edmund's early life, including his coronation on Christmas Day, comes from these texts written up to 200 years after his death. It is therefore uncertain where Edmund was indeed crowned on Christmas Day, or whether his later hagiographers deemed this an appropriate date for the coronation of a king who would later be canonised.

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Beginning of the Life of Edmund the Martyr in Ælfric’s Lives of Saints: British Library Cotton MS Julius E VII, f. 203r.

The crowning glory in our series of early medieval Christmas coronations is that of William the Conqueror, who was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day in 1066. William’s coronation marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in England, and the beginning of the Norman dynasty.

Royal 14 B VI

Detail of a roundel of William the Conqueror ('William Bastard'), from a genealogical chronicle of the kings of England, England (East Anglia?), c. 1340–1342: British Library Royal MS 14 B VI, membrane 5.

After his coronation, William set about establishing his authority in his new kingdom. As part of this process, he commissioned an abbey to be built upon the site of the Battle of Hastings. According to 12th-century sources, before the battle, William had sworn to build the abbey in order to commemorate and pray for those who died in combat. A detailed account of this foundation story was written at Battle in the 12th century. The page below is the beginning of an account of the life of William the Conqueror, and depicts William enthroned.

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Historiated initial with William the Conqueror: British Library Cotton MS Domitian A II, f. 22v.

It is extremely likely that these kings, or the people who wrote their legends, consciously chose to the crowned on Christmas Day. Those who celebrated their coronations on 25 December would also be celebrating the birth of Christ, the saviour and King of Kings. This would have added a sense of Divine favour to their rule, and secured their claim to that particular title. The sacred significance of this would not have been lost on the audience of these ceremonies, those who recorded them, and those who read about them throughout history.

Becky Lawton

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23 December 2016

The Medieval Origins of the Christmas Carol

Most people today think of a carol as any song or hymn related to Christmas. In its origins, it is something both more and less specific than this. It is derived from the Old French word carole, referring to a round of dancers, singing and holding hands. What they sung was not limited to Christmas music, and musicologists often identify a refrain repeated after each stanza as the key feature of an early carol. Not all medieval carols were overtly religious, but most focused on the Virgin Mary or the winter holy days. The association with the season has been magnified over time, and it now less frequently refers to a specific musical form. So how does a carol get from a medieval manuscript to singers on a street corner, buskers on public transport, or loudspeakers in a shopping centre?

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Veni redemptor gentium: Cotton MS Vespasian D XII, f. 34v.

The oldest text still sung today that we would now call a Christmas carol is probably ‘Veni redemptor gentium’, by Ambrose (c. 340–397). Ambrose was once thought to have invented the hymn, although we now know that the form predates him. The history of Veni redemptor is typical of how medieval works become modern popular Christmas carols. In the Middle Ages, it was typically sung to plainchant, and was one of the standard pieces used on Christmas Eve. It can be found in many manuscripts in the British Library, including several that are online, notably Cotton MS Vespasian D XII; Harley MS 2961; and Arundel MS 155. (The Cantus database and the book Early Latin Hymnaries are great starting points for finding such texts in manuscript.) The idea of Ambrose as the creator of the hymn became so popular during the Middle Ages that a large number of poems ended up being associated with him over time; this is one of the few attributions to survive the rigour of modern scholarship.

Veni redemptor gentium in the Eadui Psalter: Arundel MS 155, f. 151r.

‘Veni redemptor gentium’ in the Eadui Psalter: Arundel MS 155, f. 151r.

In the English world, Ambrose’s hymn largely disappeared after King Henry VIII’s split from Rome, but benefitted from a revival of interest in medieval culture in the 19th century. It gained new popularity as ‘Come, thou Redeemer of the earth’, one of several well-known translations by John Mason Neale (1818–66), who was particularly gifted in expressing the meaning of his originals and matching their metres. It is today sung to many different tunes, but is most commonly paired with the music for another medieval carol, ‘Puer nobis nascitur’ (‘Unto us a boy is born’), found in the Moosburg Gradual of 1355–60, as arranged by Michael Praetorius (for ‘Geborn ist Gottes Söhnelein’). What reaches our ears today is the combined contribution of about half a dozen people over time.

Prudentius’s Corde natus ex parentis in the Leofric Collectar: Harley MS 2961, f. 228r

Prudentius’s ‘Corde natus ex parentis’ in the Leofric Collectar: Harley MS 2961, f. 228r.

Another contender for the oldest Christmas carol is ‘Corde natus ex parentis’, by Prudentius (348–c. 413), a Spanish lawyer who became a monk later in life. Like Ambrose’s hymn, it has gone through many layers of filtering and waves of popularity. One can hear it today in several different forms, most based on ‘Of the Father’s love begotten’ (another of Neale’s creations) or ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten’ (by R. F. Davis). The music is usually taken from the Finnish/Swedish book Piae cantiones first published in 1582, compiled by Jacobus Finno, largely from medieval sources. Purists might think this ahistorical; but even in the Middle Ages, words could be sung to many tunes from wildly varying sources.

There are many other medieval texts that remain today widely recognizable Christmas carols. Angelus ad virginem (‘The angel to the virgin’), cited by the Miller in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, is unusual in that it is still frequently sung by choirs, but almost always untranslated; the Middle English translation, ‘Gabriel, fram Heven-King’, is much more obscure. The British Library’s collections include many early carols that almost nobody today has heard of, such as King Henry VIII’s failed classic ‘Green groweth the holly’, found in Add MS 31922.

Henry VIII’s Green groweth the holly: Add. MS 31922, f. 37v.

Henry VIII’s ‘Green groweth the holly’: Add MS 31922, f. 37v.

There is far more to explore in the world of medieval carols in manuscript. Most of the British Library’s holdings can be explored through the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music. Research into these sources can unearth forgotten classics; The New Oxford Book of Carols was especially successful in stretching what had become a stagnant musical repertoire in the 20th century. Medieval carols can remain successful today because they are inherently flexible, are far removed from today’s commercialism, and encourage the spontaneous combination of many different traditions.

Andrew Dunning

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22 December 2016

A Reindeer Farmer at King Alfred's Court

This is a story about a gift-giving man, who lived in the ‘north-most’ place and owned 600 reindeer. Sounds like anyone familiar? Well, he wasn't Santa, if that was what you were thinking. The man in question was Ohthere, an intrepid explorer from medieval Scandinavia, who visited the court of King Alfred the Great in the late 9th century and told the king about his travels. We know Ohthere's story from a 10th-century manuscript held at the British Library, recently added to our Digitised Manuscripts site (Add MS 47967).

Reindeer

Detail of a deer from an Old English translation of Medicina de quadrupedibus (England, 11th century): Cotton MS Vitellius C III, f. 76r.

Ohthere was a wealthy explorer from the area that is now Norway. He travelled around Scandinavia, including areas that today comprise parts of Denmark and Finland, and he sailed ‘as far north as whale-hunters ever go’. He later visited the court of King Alfred of Wessex (871–899), where scholars were keen to learn about his travels. One of these scholars added an account of Ohthere's travels to the Old English translation of Orosius's Historia adversus paganos (History against the pagans). According to this account, Ohthere told Alfred about his travels, explaining that he was curious to see the extreme north, and that he wanted to hunt ‘horse-whales’, or walruses. Walrus ivory was a valuable trading commodity in this period, and Ohthere presented King Alfred with some walrus tusks when they met.   

Cotton_ms_tiberius_b_v!1_f057v north sea
Detail of the North Sea from a world map, England, c. 1000-1050, Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1, f. 56v 

Whoever preserved this story was also curious about Ohthere’s descriptions of where the Angles had lived ‘before they came into this land’ (England). Members of Alfred's court remembered that their ancestors came from mainland Europe, and they wanted to learn more about the lands which they identified as their own places of origin.

As well as describing Ohthere’s travels, the author of this account also described whale-hunting, uninhabited polar ‘deserts’ and different Scandinavian languages. For example, according to Ohthere, the Finnas and the Beormas both spoke basically the same language. The Old English account also described Ohthere’s economic resources, including a herd of 600 ‘tame deer’ called hranas, or reindeer. In particular, Ohthere owned 6 prized ‘decoy deer’, which the Finnas used to lure wild reindeer into captivity. The account also reported that Ohthere was ‘one of the first men on the land’ near his home, and that he received a tribute of animal products from the Finnas.

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Description of reindeer in the Old English translation of Orosius’s Historia adversus paganos (England, c. 1000–1050): Cotton MS Tiberius B I, f. 12v.

Our only written source about Ohthere is contained in an Old English translation of Orosius’s History, whose compiler edited and augmented his source-material. Orosius began with an account of the geography of the known world, which the Old English translator supplemented with extra information about Britain and Scandinavia, including reports by explorers including Ohthere and another seafarer, Wulfstan. This translation may have been composed in the late 9th century, and it survives in copies from the early 10th and 11th centuries.

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Beginning of the description of world geography, from the Tollemache Orosius (England (Winchester?), c. 900–950): Add MS 47967, f. 5v.

Although he may sound like a figure from modern folktales, Ohthere was, in many ways, a myth-buster. While King Alfred is remembered today for fighting Scandinavians (thanks to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Asser’s Life of Alfred, and other texts produced at his court), the story of Ohthere shows a different side of Anglo-Scandinavian relations in the late 9th century. At least one Scandinavian traded with the English and brought gifts to Alfred, and his knowledge was recorded and respected by scholars at Alfred’s court.

Alison Hudson

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21 December 2016

Fake Anglo-Saxon Charters

The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for 2016 is ‘post-truth’. But the problem of distributing information that portrays that world as one thinks it should be, rather than sticking to objective facts, is hardly a new one. Gaining and keeping privileges is based on having documentation appearing to be authentic and credible stories surrounding it. This was no less true in the Middle Ages, and it has always been a temptation to tweak it in one’s own favour.

Today, we keep a title deed to demonstrate right to a particular property, or a diploma from an educational institution to demonstrate a particular qualification. This stems from the medieval practice of creating ‘charters’, derived from the Latin word ‘carta’ or ‘charta’, originally meaning a sheet of writing material — ‘Magna Carta’ means ‘the big charter’. Over time, the word came to refer to a formal deed or other legal instrument, since charters were normally issued as a single sheet of parchment.

Cotton Charter XI 11

Writing Old English in the 15th century: Cotton Charter XI 11.

If a document supporting your claim to a piece of land had been destroyed, lost or mouldered away, this posed a liability. You could have a new charter issued to confirm one’s privileges in such instances, but this meant extra expenses and bureaucracy. The privileges of institutions were often based on events that had occurred far beyond the realm of living memory, and they risked lawsuits if it became apparent to outsiders that a claim was ambiguous. The obvious solution was to recreate the charter: to make a forgery.

The intent in such cases was not necessarily malicious; historians often refer to such charters as ‘spurious’ to avoid passing judgement on their creators. Some documents were obviously fraudulent, and known to be so even in the Middle Ages. The most famous example is the Donation of Constantine, which purported to be from the Roman emperor who reigned from 306 to 337, granting vast temporal rights to the papacy. Most charters, however, were based on originals, now usually lost, and they continue to be of value for understanding the past, even if they cannot be taken as authentic documentation.

Add Charter 28657

Still trying to be Anglo-Saxon in the 12th century: Add Charter 28657.

In England, some of the most fascinating spurious charters are those purporting to be Anglo-Saxon. Documentation from this period is scarce, and historians have analysed them to determine which details might be accurate. But whether their contents are true or false, they give a sense of how someone living after 1066 viewed the period before the Norman Conquest. Far from sitting unread, there continued to be interest in understanding the contents and composition of Anglo-Saxon charters, and this expertise was key to making a successful imitation.

Forgers attempted to imitate script; the form of the document, including the seal; and language and formulae. They did so with wildly varying levels of success. Some scribes had a clear sense that the document they were examining was quite different from something they might create in everyday business. Others made no attempt whatsoever to make a charter look like an earlier medieval document, and in some cases do not seem to have understood the function of every aspect of a charter.

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Gothic script taking on aspects of English vernacular minuscule: Harley Charter 43 C 9.

Handwriting is the most obvious indicator of a spurious charter. A document written in Gothic script cannot be an original from the year 900. The cleverest scribes wrote charters in a script after the manner of their own period, but attempting to use the letterforms of an older style, in this case English vernacular minuscule. This was a relatively widespread phenomenon, and can be used as a direct measure for historical literacy, as Julia Crick has shown. Some scribes’ imitations have proven good enough to fool palaeographers into thinking that a document was much older than it really is.

Add Charter 33658

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Anglo-Saxon for show: Add Ch 33658.

Some forgers were also aware of how an Anglo-Saxon charter should physically look. Most understood that it should be a single sheet of parchment, but many forgers failed to create a convincing imitation because they attempted to create the most impressive document they could imagine, rather than something that followed historical precedent. One example is Add Charter 33658, a 14th-century creation that purports to be a grant of King Edgar to Ramsey Abbey, dated 28 December 974. It is copied on a massive sheet of parchment, with far wider margins than any known Anglo-Saxon document, and is clearly designed for show. Someone seems to have had a vague idea that a real charter should be a chirograph. This was a medieval method of authentication: two or more copies of a charter would be written on a single sheet of parchment, a word such as CHIROGRAPHVS would be written along the boundaries between the copies, and they would be cut apart with a wavy line. In cases of doubt, the authenticity of a document could be determined by bringing the copies back together. In this case, the forgers do not seem to have known exactly how a chirograph was meant to work: wobbly semicircles have been cut out of one side, without any inscription. Update, 16 January 2017: We had thought that we had ruled out the possibility of this being a rodent’s work, but Susan Maddock kindly points out that the pattern on the left edge indicates that the charter was stored as a roll, not folded as it is now.

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An 11th-century test forgery of Edward the Confessor’s seal: Cotton Charter XVII 5.

The most impressive aspect of many charters is their seals. Like the texts of charters, some forged seals were based on originals. Westminster Abbey ran a particularly sophisticated forgery operation: they had some charters with the seal of King Edward the Confessor, and made a very close copy of it around the late 11th century, which survives on several surviving spurious charters. One can catch them in the act of perfecting their work with Cotton Charter XVII 5, which appears to be a practice copy, a seal attached to a small blank sheet of parchment. Centuries later, monks were still trying to produce forged charters of Edward the Confessor, but less successfully — Harley Charter 43 E 51, from the 15th century, has what almost looks like a massive Victorian fantasy version of Edward’s seal (113 mm in diameter), showing the king seated in an unapologetically Gothic structure.

Harley Charter 43 E 51

Harley Charter 43 E 51 Seal

Imagining Edward the Confessor in the 15th century: Harley Charter 43 E 51.

Some charters that are physically much newer than their text are, of course, mere copies of a degrading original, and can still be treated as conveying accurate historical details. Historians can tell the difference between these and deliberate forgeries by carefully analysing the language and formulae used, along with known historical details. Today, we are becoming much better at understanding what makes an authentic Anglo-Saxon charter.

Andrew Dunning

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15 December 2016

New Developments in Manuscript Viewers

As regular readers of this blog will know, we recently announced an exciting new project with the Bibliothèque nationale de France to digitise 400 pre-1200 manuscripts at each institution, generously supported by The Polonsky Foundation.

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Decorated initial ‘Q’(uid) in British Library, Arundel MS 60, f. 53r

IIIF and Search functionality

We thought that some of you might be interested in some of the more technical aspects of the viewer that will be developed by the project team. The teams at both libraries are meeting to develop the viewer, which will use the International Image Interoperability framework (IIIF). Both the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library are founding members of the IIIF Consortium, established in 2015, and have been involved in developing the IIIF specifications in order to promote a standardised way of presenting digital material.

Detailed technical specifications are available here, and are refined continuously. The digitised collections will comply both with IIIF image API 2.0 and IIIF Presentation API 2.0. One of the main goals of the new viewer will be the ability to display manuscripts from either institution side by side. 

We also plan to include a search and browse function enabling users to search for various types of manuscripts. This may be based on the functionality available on Biblissima, described here. Also like Biblissima, it is intended that the website will be bilingual in French and English.

The manuscripts are being digitised now, and we expect to make this viewer available in September 2018. In the meantime, as they are digitised and catalogued, British Library manuscripts can be viewed initially on our Digitised Manuscripts website and later on its successor, and BnF manuscripts on Gallica. At the British Library, we are intending to put up the first batch of manuscripts in the New Year, and we’ll be letting you know further details about this.

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The Annunciation in British Library, Cotton MS Caligula A VII/1, f. 3r

Copyright and download

We plan to include download options for individual images or manuscripts, allowing images to be reused in the public domain without charge. Readers may be surprised to learn that most medieval manuscripts held at the British Library are still in copyright until 2039 under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (as amended). However for unpublished material created many centuries ago and in the public domain in most other countries, the British Library believes making available digital copies of this material to be very unlikely to raise any objections. As an institution whose role it is to support access to knowledge, we have therefore taken the decision to release certain digitised images technically still in copyright in the UK under the Public Domain Mark on our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts website. Further details about this are here. We intend to make these images available on the same terms on the website to be developed by the project. 

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Part of the Polonsky Digitisation Project

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14 December 2016

Researcher and Writer: Old and Middle English

The British Library is seeking to recruit a Researcher and Writer, specialising in Old and Middle English, to work on our Discovering Literature online resource. This is an 8 months fixed-term contract, based at our site in St Pancras, London. To apply for this vacancy, please visit our Careers website.

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An Old English text on animal medicine: Cotton MS Vitellius C III, f. 82r.

Discovering Literature is one of the British Library’s most acclaimed curated online resources. Aimed at A-level students, teachers and lifelong learners, the site opens access to the Library’s literary and historical treasures, enabling users to explore the social, political and cultural context in which key works of literature were written. Following the launch of the first three modules of the project, the Research and Writer: Digital Learning will join the Collections team to work on the forthcoming Old and Middle English phase of the project. 

We are looking for a highly organised individual with excellent research and web-authoring skills, and specialist experience of using manuscripts and early printed books. The post-holder will sit within the Western Heritage curatorial team, but will also work closely with the Learning team. He or she will be responsible for researching and identifying collection material, authoring label content, co-ordinating the digitisation process and supporting the creation of article content.

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The York Mystery Plays, in Middle English: Add MS 35290, f. 67r.

The successful applicant will be required to research our collections relating to Old and Middle English, working in conjunction with the curators, Learning and Imaging Services teams. They will be expected to identify potential external partners, and will contribute to the promotion of the project. They will also scope and help to deliver an Adult Learning Course on Old and Middle English.

Essential requirements for this position are:

  • Specialist knowledge and research experience using manuscripts and early printed books relevant to the collections at the British Library, evidenced through a post-graduate qualification or equivalent.
  • Strong palaeographical skills relevant to working with medieval manuscripts.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, in particular editorial and web-authoring skills, and evidence of writing and publishing to deadline.
  • Familiarity with British Library catalogues and catalogues of other major research libraries.
  • The ability to work both independently and in a team.
  • High level of time-management skills.

Further details can be found here (post number 01073). The closing date is 8 January 2017, and interviews will be held on 23 and 24 January 2017.