Medieval manuscripts blog

Bringing our medieval manuscripts to life

12 posts from August 2012

09 August 2012

Books of Beasts, Adventure, and Two from New Minster: New Royal Manuscripts Online


Miniature of king Edgar presenting a charter (probably the New Minster Charter) to Christ in Majesty, watched by the Virgin and St Peter, from The New Minster Charter, England (Winchester, New Minster), c. 966, Cotton Vespasian A. viii, f. 2v


With abject apologies for the title above (which we couldn't resist), we are pleased to announce yet another upload of Royal manuscripts to the Digitised Manuscript site.  This is a more diverse group than last week's devotional manuscripts.  It includes a bestiary, an Isidore of Seville, a Roman de la Rose, the Tabula Cebetis, histories of Caesar and Alexander - and of course, as promised, two manuscripts from the New Minster of Winchester.  Many of these manuscripts have been highlighted previously on the blog; the relevant links are below.



Miniature of the Seat of Virtue, with a personification of Virtue in a garden with Aeternitas, Gloria, Studius, and Mars, from Filippo Alberici's Tabula Cebetis, France (Paris), c. 1507, Arundel 317, f. 20v

Arundel 317        Filippo Alberici's Tabula Cebetis, France (Paris), c. 1507

Cotton Vespasian A. viii        The New Minster Charter, England (Winchester, New Minster), c. 966

Royal 6 C. i         Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae, England (St Augustine's, Canterbury), 4th quarter of the 11th century

Royal 12 C. xix    Bestiary with theological texts ('The Royal Bestiary'), central or northern England, c. 1200 - c. 1210    (for more details, please see the King of Beasts post on this manuscript)


Detail of a miniature of an elephant with a dragon on its back, from the entry for dragon (Draco), from Bestiary with theological texts ('The Royal Bestiary'), central or northern England, c. 1200 - c. 1210, Royal 12 C. xix, f. 62r


Royal 15 E. vi      The Talbot Shrewsbury Book, France (Rouen), 1444-1445     (please also see our recent post on this manuscript here)

Royal 17 D. vi       Thomas Hoccleve, The Regement of Princes, and other poems, England, 2nd quarter of the 15th century

Royal 17 F. ii         La Grande histoire César (Les faits des Romains, with additional texts), Netherlands (Bruges), 1479

Royal 19 D. i         Roman d'Alexandre (Romance of Alexander) in prose, and other texts, France (Paris), 1333 - c. 1340

Royal 20 A. xvii    Roman de la Rose, (France, Artois or Picardy), c. 1340 - 1350

Stowe 944            The New Minster Liber Vitae, England (Winchester, New Minster), c. 1031      (for more details see this post on the New Minster Liber Vitae)



Miniature of the birth of Caesar, with a full border including the royal arms of England, from La Grande histoire César (Les faits des Romains, with additional texts), Netherlands (Bruges), 1479, Royal 17 F. ii, f. 9r



Detail of a miniature illustrating the song, 'La Bataille d'Annezin', about a pilgrim who made peace between battling Christians and Saracen, from Roman de la Rose, (France, Artois or Picardy), c. 1340 - 1350, Royal 20 A. xvii, f. 176v

06 August 2012

Psalters, Bibles, and the End of Days: Devotional Texts from the Royal Collection Go Online

Add_ms_50001_f022rMiniature of the Crucifixion, with an historiated initial 'D' and a full foliate border, including an inscription of Queen Elizabeth of York in the lower margin, reading 'Elysabeth ye quene', from the Hours of Elizabeth the Queen, England (London?), c. 1415, Add 50001, f. 22r

Our most recent Royal upload to the Digitised Manuscript site includes this group of devotional manuscripts.  Many of these manuscripts once belonged to royalty, ranging from Æthelstan to Henry VIII (and including at least two aristocratic women - Elizabeth of York and Cecilia Welles).  This group rather beautifully displays the wide variety of medieval devotional interests, and the many written (and illustrated) forms these could take - we hope you enjoy paging through these Bibles, Psalters, Apocalypses, and Books of Hours.


Royal_ms_18_d_ix_f005rMiniature of God creating the animals, with a full border with hybrids and the royal arms of England, and an illuminated initial 'E'(n) of the York badge of the white rose en soleil with the motto 'dieu et mon droit', at the beginning of chapter 1, from the Bible Historiale of Edward IV, Netherlands (Bruges), 1479, Royal 18 D. ix, f. 5r


Add 50001          The Hours of Elizabeth the Queen (Book of Hours, Use of Sarum), England (London), c. 1415

Royal 1 B. vii       Northumbrian Gospel Book ('The Royal Æthelstan Gospels'), England (Northumbria), 700 - 749

Royal 1 D. x         Psalter, England (Oxford), 1200 - c. 1220

Royal 1 E. ix        Bible (the 'Big Bible' or the 'Great Bible'), England (London?), 1st quarter of the 15th century     (for more information on this manuscript; please see this post)

Royal 2 A. xvi      The Psalter of Henry VIII, England (London), c. 1540 - 1541    (further information in our previous post: Henry VIII as King David)

Royal 15 D. ii       La lumere as lais, and Apocalypse ('The Welles Apocalypse'), England, c. 1310

Royal 18 D. ix      Bible historiale ('Bible Historiale of Edward IV'), volume 1, Netherlands (Bruges), 1479

Royal 18 D. x       Bible historiale ('Bible Historiale of Edward IV'), volume 2, Netherlands (Bruges), 1479

Royal 19 D. ii       Bible historiale ('The Bible of John the Good'), France (Paris), c. 1350 - 1356


Royal_ms_1_d_x_f007rMiniature in two registers from the prefatory cycle: upper register: the Holy Women at the Tomb; lower register: Christ's Descent into Hell, from a Psalter, England (Oxford), 1200 - c. 1220, Royal 1 D. x, f. 7r.


Royal_ms_15_d_ii_f117vFull-page miniature of Christ enthroned with 24 Elders and, in the lower register, the door opened in Heaven, illustrating Revelation 4:2-9, from the Welles Apocalypse, England, c. 1310, Royal 15 D. ii, f. 117v


01 August 2012

The Pleasure of Discovery: Call for Papers for Leeds IMC 2013

C13344-49 Harley 3469 f. 30v

Miniature of a black sun (sol niger) setting on the outskirts of a city, from Salomon Trismosin's Splendor Solis, Germany, 1582, Harley 3469, f. 30v


It's Call-for-Papers week here at the British Library's Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts department! We are pleased to announce that we will be inviting contributions for several sponsored sessions at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds 2013.  The Congress will take place from 1-4 July 2013, and will focus on the theme of 'Pleasure' (for more information on the 2013 Congress, please click here).  

In keeping with this ‘Pleasure’ theme, we would like to invite papers in the following two categories:


1. Books of Pleasure / The Pleasure of Books:

The book was a source of pleasure throughout the Middle Ages, from Augustine’s ‘book of the heart’ to Richard de Bury’s Philobiblon. The very nature of pleasure—what it entailed and whence it derived—was not uniform, and artists, authors and readers all expressed their pleasure in a variety of forms. This session seeks papers that address the pleasure given (and taken) from books. Topics to be addressed might include (but are not limited to) any of the following:

-          visual or narrative depictions of leisure and pleasure / the iconography of pleasure

-          the complexities and contradictions of writing about or illustrating pleasure

-          explorations of the pleasure of books: creating, illuminating, owning, or reading


2. The Pleasure of Discovery: Recent Research and New Perspectives on British Library Manuscripts:

The Manuscripts Reading Room in the British Library is often privileged to witness new discoveries and the birth of fresh perspectives on objects in our collections. The pleasure in the moment of discovery and the urge to shout ‘Eureka!’ is, however, often muted out of respect for fellow researchers and the necessity of keeping quiet in a place of work. In the spirit of this conference theme, we invite papers that give full expression to the pleasures of discovery.

We are particularly interested in any recent research, new assessments, or (as yet) unpublished discoveries within the medieval manuscripts in the British Library’s collections and encourage participants to re-live their initial jubilation in the moment of discovery.


Papers accepted for inclusion in the British Library’s sponsored sessions may be submitted for peer-review for special publication in the Electronic British Library Journal (the eBLJ).  The British Library will also make available any extant manuscript photography for participants for use in their presentations.

Please email your abstract of about 100 words (per 20 minute paper) to Sarah J Biggs (sarah-j.biggs [at] bl [dot] uk) no later than 17 September 2012.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Bursaries are available from the IMC to help defray the cost of accommodation and registration; please click here for the online form.

A Calendar Page for August 2012

For more details on calendar pages or the Hours of Joanna of Castile, please see the entry for January 2012

Add 18852 ff. 8v-9

Calendar pages for August, from the Hours of Joanna of Castile, Netherlands (Bruges), between 1496 and 1506, Additional 18852, ff. 8v-9

The important work of the wheat harvest continues in the August calendar pages; there seems no place for leisurely springtime entertainments (such as drinking in a garden or flirting on horseback) in these two scenes of demanding labour.  Three men, stripped to the bare essentials of clothing, are threshing wheat on the left, inside a barn with a broken roof.  On the right, a female figure - for Virgo, the virgin - overlooks a group loading the wheat grains into sacks, which appear very heavy indeed.