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16 March 2017

Our First 100 Polonsky Pre-1200 Manuscripts Are Now Online

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The first 100 manuscripts are up! The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project: Manuscripts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, 700–1200 is celebrating its first digitisation milestone. 100 manuscripts from the British Library have now been added to our Digitised Manuscripts site for you to explore!  A full list of the 100 digitised manuscripts with links to the viewer can be found here:  100 MSS Online.

These manuscripts cover a wide variety of topics and images from the Project’s focus of AD 700–1200 (you can read more about the Project or listen to the French interview of Matthieu Bonicel, Head of Innovation at the BnF). Some of the highlights include lavishly illuminated Gospels, like the Préaux Gospels from early 12th-century Normandy, with its amazing miniatures of the Evangelists and luxurious canon tables.

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Canon table with Evangelist surrounded by dragons and overgrown vines. The Préaux Gospels, Add MS 11850 f. 10v

A Rule of St Benedict datable to 1129 from the Benedictine abbey of St Gilles, in the diocese of Nîmes, opens with a gilded image of four tonsured men. The marginal letters in gold leave no doubt that this is St Benedict presenting a book (undoubtedly the Rule) to his disciple St Maurus. According to the account in the Life of St Maurus, St Maurus was responsible for establishing the Benedictine order in Francia (modern-day France).

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The opening folio of the Rule of St Benedict, Add MS 16979, f. 21v

The manuscripts now fully digitised also include plenty of material that requires a certain level of specialist knowledge to interpret. For example, a table similar to a graph sheet from a turn of the 12th century manuscript from Canterbury provides information for calculating the correct date of Easter and other movable feasts, in addition to scientific observations related to calendars, meteorology, astronomy and the keeping of time. Added material shows that the tables were still in use in the 15th century!

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Table for calculating the date of Easter, from Egerton MS 3314, f. 31v

Another fascinating manuscript is a 9th-century text on the liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, music and astronomy from Lotharingia (covering modern day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, some eastern areas of France and western areas of Germany). How many students has this Lady Rhetoric seen with her wide eyes; how many readers have been intimidated (or amused) by her unimpressed expression?

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A diagram of rhetorical argument, Harley MS 2637, f. 12r

We hope you enjoy exploring these exciting manuscripts. Happy discoveries!

Tuija Ainonen

Partez  Ă  la dĂ©couverte de 100 manuscrits antĂ©rieurs Ă  1200 grâce au projet The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project: Manuscripts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, 700-1200.

Nous sommes ravis de vous annoncer l’achèvement de cette première étape, qui consiste en la publication des 100 premiers manuscrits entièrement numérisés, sélectionnés par la British Library. Ceux-ci seront disponibles en ligne, sur notre site internet Digitised Manuscripts. Une liste complète de ces volumes pourvue d’un lien vers l’interface est fournie ici: 100 MSS Online.

Venez dĂ©couvrir l’extraordinaire richesse de ces manuscrits, couvrant une pĂ©riode de 5 siècles (entre 700 et 1200). Ces derniers prĂ©sentent une importante variĂ©tĂ© d’œuvres et d’enluminures. Voyagez dans diverses rĂ©gions et Ă©poques au travers de ces manuscrits. Vous apprĂ©cierez ainsi l’EvangĂ©liaire des PrĂ©aux (XIIe siècle), somptueusement dĂ©corĂ©, ou la règle de saint BenoĂ®t, provenant de l’abbaye de Saint-Gilles, près de NĂ®mes (1129), et sa reprĂ©sentation magistrale de saint BenoĂ®t et son disciple saint Maur. Les collections ayant trait  aux arts libĂ©raux ainsi que les manuels pĂ©dagogiques fournissent Ă©galement de prĂ©cieux tĂ©moins de l’enseignement et du renouveau de ces disciplines. Un  manuscrit du IXe siècle originaire de Lotharingie est ainsi reprĂ©sentatif de l’instruction Ă  l’époque carolingienne. Nous espĂ©rons que vous apprĂ©cierez cette sĂ©lection et qu’elle vous mènera Ă  de nombreuses dĂ©couvertes. Bonne visite !

Laure Miolo (French summary)

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