THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

27 March 2013

What's in Our Treasures Gallery?

Stowe_ms_944_f006r
Queen Emma and King Cnut at the altar of the New Minster, Winchester, England, 11th century: London, British Library, MS Stowe 944, f. 6r.

Visitors to the British Library at St Pancras can often see a wide range of books and manuscripts in our Treasures Gallery, ranging from Shakespeare to the Beatles. In the exhibition cases devoted to medieval manuscripts you can currently view several of our greatest Anglo-Saxon books, including the New Minster Liber Vitae (see here for a post about the equivalent book from Durham Cathedral) and the foundation charter of the same abbey. You can already see both items (the New Minster Liber Vitae, Stowe MS 944, and the New Minster foundation charter, Cotton MS Vespasian A VIII) on our Digitised Manuscripts site.

Cotton_ms_vespasian_a_viii_f002v
The frontispiece of the New Minster charter, England, c. 966: London, British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian A VIII, f. 2v.

Meanwhile, currently on display in the exhibition cases devoted to medieval literature is the unique manuscript of Beowulf. Made around the year AD 1000, this manuscript contains not only the sole surviving copy of Beowulf, the longest epic poem in the Old English language, but also the texts of Judith, the Marvels of the East, and the letter of Alexander to Aristotle.

Cotton_ms_vitellius_a_xv_f176r
A typical page from the Beowulf manuscript, England, c. 1000, which was damaged by fire in 1731: London, British Library, MS Cotton Vitellius A XV, f. 176r.

The Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library, is open 7 days a week, and is free to visit. We regret that on occasion items have to be removed temporarily for use in our Reading Rooms; and we also operate a rotation policy, because many of the oldest and most fragile items in our collections cannot be kept on display for indefinite periods.

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