Medieval manuscripts blog

Bringing our medieval manuscripts to life

13 May 2013

Why Do We Blog?

Good question. Why do we blog?

The simple answer is we blog in order to tell you, our readers, about our wonderful manuscripts. We are custodians of world-class collections of ancient, medieval and early modern manuscripts; but it may not be immediately obvious to you what we look after at the British Library, and we're trying to do our best to remedy that.

Detail of an historiated initial 'R'(ege) with a seated scribe labelled 'OSBEARNVS', a censing monk, animals, and animal heads: Life of St Dunstan, Canterbury, late 11th or early 12th century (London, British Library, MS Arundel 16, f. 2r).

We use this blog to promote our events and exhibitions, most recently our exhibition on Royal manuscripts. We also like to tell you about our various digitisation projects, and to draw your attention to some of our resources, most notably the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts site and our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

This blog has recently undergone a facelift. Signficant changes are the new field labelled "Search this blog", in which you can discover our previous posts, and the ability to subscribe by email. And you can keep up-to-date via our Twitter feed, @blmedieval.

Donatus writing his grammar, his ink-pot held by a monk labelled 'Heinre'(?), at the end of Sedulius Scotus's Expositio super primam edicionem Donati grammatici: Germany, 2nd half of the 12th century (London, British Library, MS Arundel 43, f. 80v).

Are we doing a good job? We hope so -- after all, we have received well-nigh half a million page-views in the last year-and-a-bit -- but please feel free to comment at the end of each post, and using Twitter. Most importantly, we want to encourage your research in and enthusiam for our marvellous medieval manuscripts.

Julian Harrison & Sarah J Biggs


"Are we doing a good job? We hope so -- but please feel free to comment. Most importantly, we want to encourage your research in and enthusiam for our marvellous medieval manuscripts."

I thoroughly enjoy your posts, or to be precise, the 'posts' from scribes from hundreds of years ago. I wonder what they would have blogged about? Ink going thick on cold days?

I'd love to see a series on script variations through the ages.

These are laudable aims. I would imagine that ten thousand people have heard of the British Museum for every one who has even heard of the British Library, and still fewer of its manuscript holdings.

The blog does a service in making people aware of what exists, to some extent. It has been very useful in hearing about the digitisations of manuscripts.

But I find myself wondering how one might make people more aware of what the library holds in the way of mss.

Everyone loves a story. How about a few posts on the history of the collection? How did it come into being? How did the various collections start, and grow? What about past curators; good and bad? Rogues and characters? How the collection is typically used ... or not used? What is the most frequently requested ms? Which mss are never requested, and why?

All these things seem to me the sort of things that never turn up on the web, yet might well be of interest to many to read, and would attract hits from Google.

We're all Indiana Jones sometimes; or maybe watching Stargate SG-1. Well, here there are real obscure texts, not fictional ones, written in hard to understand languages and scripts from lost civilisations.

One problem for the visitor is gaining any idea of what the mss collections actually hold. How old are the mss, on average?

Just a few thoughts, in case they spark some ideas. Blogging can be a lonely business, without feedback. My congratulations on making the effort. It has certainly been successful in promoting knowledge of the library and its collections.

I think you're doing a terrific job of blogging! I love your insight and wit. Keep up the wonderful work!

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