Medieval manuscripts blog

Bringing our medieval manuscripts to life

23 February 2012

Which Royal Manuscripts Should We Digitise?

K90058-24 Royal 19 D iii f. 3

Miniature of God the Creator, from a Bible Historiale, France (Clairfontaine and Paris), 1411, Royal 19 D. iii, vol. 1, f. 3

We are pleased to announce that the British Library has recently been awarded a research grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to facilitate on-going research for the Royal project.  Each year the AHRC provides funding from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities.  Only applications of the highest quality are funded and the range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. 

The British Library's Royal project is funded by the AHRC as part of its Digital Transformations in Arts and Humanities theme and contributes to a package of measures aimed at developing innovative approaches to archiving, accessing and using data in the arts and humanities.  This package of measures is supported as part of the additional investment to enhance the national e.infrastructure for research, announced by the Government in October 2011.

An important part of this new research grant will enable us to digitise fully a number of the manuscripts that are currently featured in the exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination; these manuscripts will soon be freely available to all on our Digitised Manuscripts site.   So far we have selected 41 manuscripts from the current Royal exhibition to be included on Digitised Manuscripts; please see the list below.

One of the principal goals of our follow-on Royal project is to be responsive to current research needs, and to select manuscripts for digitisation that will have the biggest impact in these areas. To that end, we would like to invite your thoughts and ideas about which manuscripts should be included in our final list.   It will be possible to select another 6 - 10 manuscripts to be digitised in full (depending, of course, on their length); we would love to hear your feedback.

We have already selected for digitisation the 41 items in the list below.  Please send your suggestions for other candidates to [email protected] or in the comments to this post.  The only 'rule' is that the manuscript should be one that is currently on display in the exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination; for more details on the manuscripts please see our Facebook albums.


Royal Manuscripts for Digitisation

Royal 1 C. vii

The Rochester Bible, England (Rochester), second quarter of the 12th century

Royal 1 D. ix

The Cnut Gospels, England (Christ Church, Canterbury), c. 1020

Royal 10 E. iv

The Smithfield Decretals, France (Toulouse?), c. 1300 and London, c. 1340s

Royal 12 C. viii

Pandolfo Collenuccio, Apologues, Italy (Rome and Florence), c. 1509 – c. 1517

Royal 13 B. viii

Gerald of Wales, Topographia Hibernica, England (Lincoln?), c. 1196 - c. 1223

Royal 14 E. iii

Estoire del Saint Graal, France (Saint-Omer or Tournai?), first quarter of the 14th century

Royal 14 E. iv

Jean de Wavrin, Recueil des croniques d’Engleterre, France (Lille) and Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1470 – c. 1480

Royal 15 D. i

Guyart des Moulins, Bible Historiale (Bible Historiale of Edward IV, part 4), Netherlands (Bruges), 1470 and c. 1479

Royal 15 E. iv

Jean de Wavrin, Anciennes et nouvelles chroniques d'Angleterre, Netherlands (Bruges), between 1471 - 1483

Royal 15 E. vi

The Talbot Shrewsbury Book, France (Rouen), 1444-1445

Royal 16 F. ii

Poems of Charles, Duke of Orléans, Netherlands (Bruges), third quarter of the 15th century (before 1483)

Royal 16 G. vi

Chroniques de France ou de St Denis, France (Paris), between 1332 – 1350

Royal 16 G. viii

Bellum Gallicum (Les commentaires de Cesar), France (Lille) and Netherlands (Bruges), 1473-1476

Royal 17 D. vi

Thomas Hoccleve, The Regement of Princes, England, second quarter of the 15th century

Royal 17 E. vii

Guyart des Moulins, Bible historiale complétée (Genesis - Psalms), France (Paris ?), 1357

Royal 17 F. ii

La grant hystoire Cesar, i.e. Les faits des Romains, Netherlands (Bruges), 1479

Royal 18 D. ii

John Lydgate, Troy Book and Siege of Thebes, England (London?), c. 1457-1460

Royal 18 D. ix

Guyart des Moulins, Bible Historiale (Bible Historiale of Edward IV, part 1), Netherlands (Bruges), 1479

Royal 18 D. x

Guyart des Moulins, Bible Historiale (Bible Historiale of Edward IV, part 2), Netherlands (Bruges), 1479

Royal 18 E. ii

Jean Froissart, Chroniques, Netherlands (Bruges), last quarter of the 15th century (before 1483)

Royal 18 E. iii

Valerius Maximus, Facta et dicta memorabilia, Netherlands (Bruges), 1479

Royal 19 B. xiii

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose, France (Paris), c. 1320 – c. 1340

Royal 19 C. iv

Le Songe du Vergier, France (Paris), 1378

Royal 19 D. ii

Guyart des Moulins, Bible Historiale (Bible Historiale of John the Good), France (Paris), c. 1350 – before 1356

Royal 19 D. iii

Guyart des Moulins, Bible Historiale, France (Paris and Clairefontaine), 1411

Royal 2 A. xviii

The Beaufort/Beauchamp Hours, England (London), c. 1430, before 1443

Royal 2 A. xxii

The Westminster Psalter, England (Westminster or St Albans), c. 1200

Royal 2 B. i

The Psalter of Humfrey of Gloucester, England (London), second quarter of the 15th century (before 1447)

Royal 20 A. xvii

Guillaume de Lorris, Jean de Meun, Thomas de Bailleul, Roman de la Rose and la Bataille d'Annezin, France (Artois or Picardy), c. 1340

Royal 20 D. i

Histoire ancienne jusq'à César, Italy (Naples), second quarter of the 14th century

Royal 20 D. iv

Lancelot du Lac, France (Arras ?), first quarter of the 14th century


Add 18850

The Bedford Hours, France (Paris), c. 1410 - 1430

Royal 1 E. vi

The Canterbury Royal Bible, England (Canterbury), first half of the 9th century

Royal 11 E. xi

Motets for Henry VIII, Netherlands (Antwerp?), 1516

Royal 14 B. v

Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings, England, last quarter of the 13th century

Royal 14 B. vi

Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings. England, c. 1300

Royal 14 C. vii

Matthew Paris, Historia Anglorum, Chronica majora, Part III, England (St Albans), 1250 – 1259

Royal 2 A. xvi

The Psalter of Henry VIII, England (London), c. 1540

Royal 2 B. vii

The Queen Mary Psalter, England (London / Westminster or East Anglia?), between 1310 - 1320

Harley 1498

Quadripartite Indenture for Henry VII’s Chapel (The Harley Indenture), England (London), 1504

Egerton 3277

The Bohun Psalter and Hours, England (London?), after 1356 and probably before 1373


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Hello, and well-done for obtaining that grant, this is a wonderful and important preservation endeavour.

If not mistaken, the book titled 'Henry VII’s Book of Astrology' from your exhibition is not among the 41 you chose so far. Should you have the time, I feel it would be an interesting one to digitize, in particular to illustrate that both superstitions and religion influenced the King on a daily basis.

It would be nice if the BL would digitise some of the NON-illuminated mss. These are much more likely to be of scholarly interest; illuminated mss of the pretty-pretty sort tend to be worthless as textual witnesses. It would be good to see the imbalance towards late art mss corrected, in favour of the duller but more useful text mss.

Thus the oldest Tertullian in the library, Ms. Royal 5 F XVIII (11th century) is not illuminated, but it would be very helpful to have it online.

I'm a little sad to see that there aren't any illustrated Apocalypse manuscripts on the list, as there are three in the Royal collection. Nevertheless, my vote is for Matthew Paris' Historia Anglorum.

Dear Nancy R.,
Matthew Paris' Historia Anglorum is on the list of definite selections, but there is still room for further suggestions - please do recommend an Apocalypse for us!

I sent a message to the address above ([email protected]) but it was returned as a bad mailbox. Please check the link.

My suggestion is Royal 1 B.xii (Bible of William of Hales), of interest both for its text and images.

I vote for digitizing Royal 18 E. ii and Addl 18850.

I would like to suggest Royal 19 D 1 for digitization, which is an extremely important MS for its text and illustrations of Marco Polo as well of other texts about the Orient. I think a digitized version would be consulted often by scholars of Old French, by art historians, and by historians. Although the illustrations are deemed by some art historians not to be of the finest quality, they are thematically extremely interesting and the MS was produced in a Parisian workshop that is thought to have been very influential. The MS is also known to have been brought to London at an early stage in its life and is therefore also important evidence for the international book trade.

It is a real shame that Royal 2 B.iv could not be digitised; this is a beautiful and important twelfth-century music manuscript from St Albans which would be of invaluable use to Medieval musicians and musicologists, as well as showing how finely made such manuscripts could be. I would also put in a plea for the small but fascinating Royal 8 C.xiii.

Unfortunately neither of these are in the exhibition (understandable in the latter case)...

Limiting my choice to those in the exhibition, Cotton Claudius D.ii and Royal 20.A.ii form a pair of historiographical manuscripts with connections to the Queen Mary Psalter (Royal 2.B.vii, scheduled to be fully digitised). The Millimete _Secretum secretorum_ (Additional 47680) would also be a good addition to the existing list.

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