Medieval manuscripts blog

13 posts from July 2013

29 July 2013

The Last Will and Testament of Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great (871-899) and Eadred (946-955) are the only Anglo-Saxon kings whose wills have survived to the present day, both of which are found in the same manuscript, British Library Add MS 82931, known as the Liber de Hyda and a recent upload to our Digitised Manuscripts site.

The decorated opening page of the Liber de Hyda.

Opening page of the Liber de Hyda, Add MS 82931, f. 1r

Although it was produced in the mid-15th century, the manuscript contains copies of much earlier documents dated between 455 and 1023, all relating to Hyde Abbey, Winchester. The documents are connected by a chronicle of Anglo-Saxon history beginning with the legends of the founding of Britain and ending abruptly (in mid-sentence) during the reign of King Cnut in 1023. Each of the later chapters of the chronicle is followed by an appendix containing wills, charters and legal documents from that period, dealing mainly with land grants to the abbey. Many of these documents are unique to this manuscript, so it is an important resource for Anglo-Saxon historians. The only copy of Eadred's will is found here, but a much earlier copy of King Alfred's will survives in an 11th-century manuscript, the Liber Vitae of the New Minster, Winchester (British Library, Stowe MS 944).

The opening page of the will of Alfred the Great, from the Liber de Hyda.

Opening page of Alfred the Great's will, Add MS 82931, f. 10v

Alfred's will, drawn up c. 885, almost 15 years before his death, begins very much like a will today:

Ic Aelfred cingc mid Godes gife 7 mid geþeahtunge Aeþelredes ercebisceopes 7 ealre Westseaxena witena gewitnesse ...

I, King Alfred, by the grace of God and with the advice of Archbishop Æthelred, and the cognisance of all the West Saxon council ...

It describes the past and future succession of his kingdom, and Alfred's relationship with his father, brothers and nephews. In the preamble, the legacy of Alfred's father, Æthelwulf, is summarised, referring to how his four sons each succeeded to the kingdom in turn, and how they each made provisions for their sons. Alfred, the youngest and last to succeed, was keen to establish his right to the property distributed in his will; and so mention is made to a meeting of the West Saxon council, after his brother Æthelred's death, where the thegns upheld Alfred's claims to his brother's inheritance.

Having dismissed all rival claims to the property, Alfred proceeds to distribute land, first to his elder son Edward, then to the Old Minster at Winchester (where he was buried), to his younger son, daughters, brothers' sons and a kinsman named Osferth. In what appears to be a sentimental gesture, he bequeaths to his wife Ealhswith the places of his birth, Lambourn, and two greatest victories, Wantage and Edington. His treasure is then allocated to his children, his followers, his nephews and to the Church. A total of 2000 silver pounds was distributed, an indication of the great wealth Alfred accumulated during his reign. The king then appealed to all his successors to abide by the conditions of his will, his final gesture being to grant freedom to all the members of the council who had served him.

Eadred, one of the lesser-known Anglo-Saxon kings, was Alfred's grandson, who succeeded his brother Edmund to the throne in 946. After a short reign, he died young of a serious digestive ailment and may even have suffered from a physical disability. Despite this, Eadred had some military successes and was able to incorporate the Viking kingdom of York into his realm. The provisions made in his will are evidence of the tenuous nature of his control: Eadred left large quantities of gold and silver 'for the redemption of his soul and for the good of his people, that they may be able to purchase for themselves relief from want and from the heathen army if they [have] need'. The money was entrusted to church leaders for distribution in their respective areas. Eadred must have been concerned for the future of his kingdom, with his successor, his nephew Eadwig, only 14 years old when he acceded to the throne. Eadwig is not mentioned in the will and Eadred's mother is the only family member who is bequeathed property. However, Eadred appeared keen to leave nothing to chance when it came to the welfare of his soul; he specified that gold was to be given to 'every ecclesiastic who has been appointed since I succeeded to the throne'. Neither did he forget the members of his household, who each received a legacy.

A page from the Liber de Hyda, showing the text of Eadred's will.

Eadred's will, Add MS 82931, f. 22r

In the Liber de Hyda the wills are copied in three languages: Latin, Old English and Middle English. On the page above can be seen the end of the Latin will, followed by the Old English version in the first column, under the rubric 'Incipit testamentu[m] Edredi Regis in lingua saxonica'. Near the end of the second column is the Middle English translation with the title 'Testamentu[m] Edredi Regis in lingua Anglica'. The first line of the will shows the change in written English between the 10th and the 15th centuries, which the scribe has faithfully reproduced. 'þis is Eadredes cinges cwide' becomes 'Thys ys kyng Eadredys testament'. The English letter 'þ' or 'thorn' is replaced by 'th' and the French term 'testament' has replaced 'cwide' (the Old English word for speech from which 'quoth' is derived), meaning 'words' or 'instructions’. Today, when we say 'last will and testament' we use another word of Old English origin (from 'willan', meaning to want or wish) alongside the French term.

25 July 2013

Guess the Manuscript V

The beautiful weather lately has put us all in a gentle summery mood, so we've decided not to inflict another flyleaf mystery on you.  Today's installment of Guess the Manuscript is from the actual body of the actual manuscript; how quickly can you figure it out?


As always, this is from a manuscript in one of our collections and can be found somewhere on the Digitised Manuscript website.  Send your guesses in, and we'll update with the answer shortly!  You can check out our previous Guess the Manuscript posts here, here, here, and here.

22 July 2013

A Carolingian Masterpiece: the Moutier-Grandval Bible

On Christmas Day of the year 800, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was crowned Europe’s first Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.  Many people, including Charlemagne himself, saw the empire he had established (called Carolingian in his honour) as a continuation of that of the Romans, and the Christmas ceremony in Rome confirmed this in the eyes of the world.

Charlemagne was committed to resurrecting the classical scholarship of Greece and Rome that many felt was lost during the so-called Dark Ages, and he gathered intellectuals from around Europe to his court in Aachen.  One notable recruit was the English cleric Alcuin of York (c. 735 - 804), who joined Charlemagne's ambitious project around 781.  Alcuin became the leading figure in the group of scholars and artists assembled to stimulate the cultural revival that became known as the 'Carolingian Renaissance'. This Renaissance was focused on Charlemagne’s Court at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) and monasteries such as Tours, where Alcuin was abbot.

A page from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, showing illustrations of scenes from the Book of Genesis.
The frontispiece to Genesis, depicting the Creation of Adam and Eve, their Temptation and Expulsion from the idealised landscape of Eden to labour on thorny soil, from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, France (Tours), c. 830 – c. 840, Add MS 10546, f. 5v

One of Alcuin's contributions was to produce an emended version of the Latin Vulgate Bible. Subsequently a number of single volume Bibles were produced by teams of scribes and artists at his abbey of Tours, for distribution around Charlemagne’s empire.  We are delighted to announce that the one of the great products of that scriptorium, the Moutier-Grandval Bible, made under Abbot Adalhard (834-843), is now available online on the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website.

A page from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, showing an illustration of Christ in Majesty.
Miniature of Christ in Majesty, surrounded by the Evangelists and their symbols, from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, France (Tours), c. 830 – c. 840, Add MS 10546, f. 352v

This immense pandect—it is an enormous 495 x 380 mm, and has 449 folios—is one of three surviving illustrated copies produced in Tours in the 9th century.  The four full-page miniatures reveal this manuscript’s debt to classical art.  The decorated initials are followed by square capitals and uncials which lead into the text script, which is a form of caroline minuscule, upgraded here by the introduction of some variant letter-forms such as 'a'.  Some twenty different scribes worked on the manuscript, a signal of the scale of book production at Tours during this period.

A page from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, showing the opening of St Jerome's Prologue to the Bible, with a decorated initial F.

Decorated initial ‘F’(rater Ambrosius) from the beginning of Jerome’s prologue to the Bible in the form of a letter to Paulinus, from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, France (Tours), c. 830 – c. 840, Add MS 10546, f. 2r

The manuscript takes its name from the monastery of Moutier-Grandval, in the canton of Berne, Switzerland, where it was housed from at least the 16th century until the 18th when it made its way into private hands.  Little evidence exists concerning the Bible’s early history, but it is possible that it belonged to Moutier-Grandval from the very beginning, as the Tours scriptorium routinely produced manuscripts for use in other foundations.

An illustrated page from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, appearing at the end of the Book of Revelation.

Miniature of the book ‘sealed with seven seals’ on an altar, being opened by the Lamb and the Lion of Juda, with the symbols of the Evangelists; below, an enthroned figure holding a canopied cloth (the vault of the heaven?) and an angel blowing a trumpet, at the end of Revelation, from the Moutier-Grandval Bible, France (Tours), c. 830 – c. 840, Add MS 10546, f. 449r

The enormous size and weight of the Moutier-Grandval Bible, as well as the fragile state of its binding, made it a particular challenge for us to digitise. A special cradle was employed to safely house the manuscript during photography, and a team of experts from a number of departments in the British Library worked together to transport, tend, and watch over it during the days of filming – have a look at some of our behind-the-scenes photos below!  And if there are any queries about our use (or rather, lack of use) of white gloves, please see our previous post on the subject.

The Moutier-Grandval Bible being photographed in the British Library's imaging studio.

The Moutier-Grandval Bible being photographed in the British Library's imaging studio.

Special thanks are due to Andrea Clarke, Kathleen Doyle, and Julian Harrison of the Medieval and Earlier Manuscript department, Ann Tomalak and Gavin Moorhead of the British Library Centre for Conservation, and Antony Grant, Senior Imaging Technician.

Sarah J Biggs

19 July 2013

Royal Babies and Celebrated Infants

With all of the excitement surrounding the impending arrival of Britain's newest Royal baby, it seems like a good opportunity to have a look at the medieval representations of birth - that blessed, everyday event.

Egerton MS 1070 f. 24v c13818-46
Miniature of the Nativity of Christ, from the The Hours of René d'Anjou, France (Paris), c. 1410, Egerton MS 1070, f. 24v

The most frequently depicted newborn in medieval art is, of course, the infant Christ, who is usually shown in the manger, surrounded by the Virgin Mary, Joseph, a curious ox and ass, and occasionally choirs of angels (see above and below).  One imagines that the future king or queen of England will be born in a cozier setting, although perhaps with slightly less celestial fanfare.

Harley MS 1892 f. 8v c13685-05
Miniature of the Nativity of Christ, from a book of prayers and Gospel lessons, Netherlands or England, c. 1490 - c. 1510, Harley MS 1892, f. 8v

The births of saints and kings were also a popular subject for medieval illuminators.  The miniature of the birth of Alexander the Great below is a typical example, albeit one in a particularly luxurious setting. 

Royal MS 20 C III f. 15r E023482

Detail of a miniature of the birth of Alexander the Great, from Historia Alexandri Magni, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1485 - 1490, Royal MS 20 C III, f. 15r

An image of another well-appointed birthing suite can be found in Harley MS 2278, a manuscript containing Lydgate's lives of SS Edmund and Fremund.  In the miniature on f. 13v (below), the new mother is being attended by a group of ladies, while another looks after the newborn, complete with tiny halo, before a roaring fire.  


Detail of a miniature of the birth of St Edmund, from Lydgate's Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund, England, 1434 - 1439, Harley MS 2278, f. 13v

The 14th century Queen Mary Psalter was most likely produced for a royal woman, and includes quite a few bas-de-page paintings of nativities (with a small ‘n’).  A particularly charming example is that of St Nicholas, who can be seen lying swaddled in his cot, watched over by his tired mother and a busy servant.

Royal MS 2 B VII f. 314v G70033-40a
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of the birth of St Nicholas, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England, 1310 - 1320, Royal MS 2 B VII, f. 314v

These scenes are overwhelmingly female ones, populated almost entirely by women (and of course their babies).  Men, when they are present, are most often onlookers, claiming an active role only when medical intervention seems to have been necessary.  The most common depiction of this type of exigency is with the birth of Julius Caesar, who according to legend, had to be cut from his mother’s womb (hence our current term ‘caesarian’).  This operation has been captured in medias res in Royal MS 16 G VIII, where the future emperor can be seen emerging from his otherwise fully-dressed mother, surrounded by medical men.  Caesar’s mother seems relatively calm in this miniature, but is slightly less so in another Royal manuscript, which shows us the immediate aftermath (both below).

Detail of a miniature of the birth of Julius Caesar, from Bellum Gallicum, illuminated in the Netherlands (Bruges), 1473 - 1476, Royal MS 16 G VIII, f. 32r

Royal MS 17 F II f. 9r Caesar K90057-89a
Detail of a miniature of the birth of Caesar, from La Grande histoire César, Netherlands (Bruges), 1479, Royal MS 17 F II, f. 9r

Not all the medieval depictions of childbirth and infancy fit into these familiar patterns, however.  A copy of the Roman de la Rose dating from c. 1490 – c. 1500 includes a miniature of the personification of Nature literally forging a baby, hammering his shape on an anvil while discarded attempts lie on the floor nearby. 

Harley MS 4425 f. 140r c13324-85
Detail of a miniature of Nature forging a baby, from Roman de la Rose, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1490 - c. 1500, Harley MS 4425, f. 140r

Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a lion suckling an infant, from the Smithfield Decretals, France (probably Toulouse), with marginal illustrations added in England (London), c. 1300 - c. 1340, Royal MS 10 E IV, f. 121r

A bas-de-page scene in the Smithfield Decretals (above) shows a rather unusual caretaker for a newborn; illustrating a popular legend, a series of marginal miniatures show a lion suckling and tending to a baby.  And Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus includes a well-known episode in the (almost certainly apocryphal) life of Pope Joan, who was said to have masqueraded so successfully as a male pontiff that her true gender was only revealed when she gave birth in the middle of a religious procession (below).

Royal MS 16 G V f. 120r K040945
Detail of a miniature of Pope Joan giving birth, from Giovanni Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus, France (Rouen), c. 1440, Royal MS 16 G V, f. 120r

By and large, however, most medieval births were seen as occasions of great joy, as they still are today.  It seems fitting to conclude with this miniature of the birth of St Fremund from Harley MS 2278, which shows the celebration of both men and nature at the blessed event.


Detail of a miniature of a rainbow after the birth of St Fremund, from Lydgate's Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund, England, 1434 - 1439, Harley MS 2278, f. 72v

- Sarah J Biggs

17 July 2013

Follow the British Library

This blog promotes the British Library's medieval manuscripts collections -- but did you know that there are many other ways to follow the British Library's activities? Our own Twitter account is @blmedieval, providing the latest news on our acquisitions, events and digitisation projects, with the British Library's main Twitter feed being @britishlibrary. We do our best to respond to your tweets -- don't be shy, give us a try! Then there is the British Library's Facebook page, great for finding out about our current Propaganda exhibition, reading the latest blog posts, and learning (for instance) what happened on famous days in history.




Apart from the Medieval Manuscripts Blog, the British Library has many other blogs which may interest our readers, ranging from Maps to Science, and Endangered Archives to Untold Lives, not to mention our Americas, Asian and African, and European Collections. There should be something to interest everyone! You can find a full list of the British Library's blogs here.

There are two simple ways to get in touch, via Twitter or by leaving a comment at the foot of our blog posts. We look forward to hearing from you!

15 July 2013

Magna Cartas to be Unified for First Time

The British Library, Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral are delighted to announce that their copies of Magna Carta, issued by King John in 1215, are to be unified for the first time in 2015. In an event to be staged at the British Library in London, scholars, curators and conservators closely involved in the study of Magna Carta will be given the unique opportunity to examine the Magna Cartas side-by-side. What's more, no fewer than one thousand, two hundred and fifteen (1,215) members of the public, selected in a ballot, will be able to view the original documents together for themselves.


Miniature of King John in Matthew Paris, Historia Anglorum: St Albans, c. 1250 (London, British Library, MS Royal 14 C VII, f. 9r)

The year 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. The three institutions have been working closely to organise this one-off event, which will initiate a year of global celebrations of this key constitutional document. Claire Breay, Lead Curator of Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts at the British Library, says "Magna Carta is the most popular item in the Library’s Treasures gallery, and is venerated around the world as marking the starting point for government under the law. Bringing the four surviving manuscripts together for the first time will create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for researchers and members of the public to see them in one place, and will be a fantastic start to a year of celebrations." The unification is kindly supported by the law firm Linklaters, whose partner Richard Godden comments: "The arbitrary authority of the state is just as much a threat today as it was in the day of King John and the principles enshrined in Magna Carta remain essential not only in relation to personal liberty but to creating an environment in which business can prosper. We forget them at our peril."

Magna Carta (British Library)

Detail of one of the British Library's copies of the 1215 Magna Carta (London, British Library, MS Cotton Augustus II 106)

Magna Carta was issued by King John of England in June 1215, in an attempt to stave off the demands of his rebellious barons. Although Magna Carta was annulled by Pope Innocent III within ten weeks, revised versions were issued on behalf of John's successors Henry III (1216–1272) and Edward I (1272–1307), in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1297 respectively. On this final occasion Magna Carta was entered onto the statute roll, and thus became enshrined in English law. Its key clause has never been annulled, and has ensured Magna Carta's status as one of the foundations of international law, since it influenced the drafters of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and other constitutional texts. The relevant clause (actually clauses 39 and 40 combined) reads as follows:

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.


Miniature of King John hunting on horseback: England, 14th century (London, British Library, MS Cotton Claudius D II, f. 116r)

Once Magna Carta was sealed (not signed) by King John, a number of copies were distributed to the sheriffs and bishops of England in June and July 1215. Just four of these copies of the original 1215 version of Magna Carta have survived, two of which are now held at the British Library and one each at Lincoln and Salisbury. The Lincoln and Salisbury Magna Cartas are presumably those sent to the respective cathedrals in 1215; the British Library's two copies both belonged to the antiquary Sir Robert Cotton (d. 1631), one of them being sent to him in 1630 by the lieutenant of Dover Castle, and the other being found in a London tailor's shop. Only one of the four original documents still has its seal attached, but that copy (at the British Library) was damaged badly by a combination of fire in 1731 and a failed attempt at restoration in 1834.

Lincoln Cathedral's copy of Magna Carta on occasion travels for display at other institutions, while one of the British Library's two copies was loaned to the Library of Congress for the United States bicentennial celebrations in 1976. However, it is still exceedingly rare for these documents to leave their usual homes, and entirely unprecedented for them to be brought together in one place. The fact that they were written and distributed over a number of weeks in 1215 means that this is the first time ever that these copies of the original Magna Carta have been unified.

You can read more about Magna Carta, including seeing the Magna Carta viewer, a complete translation, and virtual curator videos, on the British Library's website.

12 July 2013

Wandering in the Desert of Religion

Cataloguing manuscripts at the British Library can be very exciting: you never quite know what's going to turn up – could I have predicted worms debating with a skeleton? On my recent list of items to tackle was a 15th-century collection of Middle English religious verse, Additional MS 37049. This manuscript has been a priority for digitisation because it is of great interest to scholars of Middle English verse, because of its multiple and vivid images, and because it is written on paper, and is therefore rather fragile. It had already been photographed, and so all that was holding it back from appearing on our Digitised Manuscripts site was a completed catalogue entry.


A man on his deathbed attended by a monk and a figure of death, who is saying ‘I have sought the (=thee) many a day, for to have the (=thee) to my pray(=prey)’. Christ on high offers absolution (London, British Library, MS Additional 37049, f. 38v).

My first port of call for information on this manuscript was the printed British Library Catalogue of Additions, and I found it under the title ‘THE DESERT OF Religion and other poems and religious pieces’. Then I knew I was in trouble! This was not going to be a short, simple task. There were 71 items in the contents list of the British Library catalogue (you can see the length of the printed catalogue entry under Related Resources in the online catalogue). Julia Boffey’s Digital Index of Middle English Verse (available online here) listed 69 records for this manuscript, each needing to be identified and checked. Almost every page contains at least one image to be described, and these are not images for the faint-hearted: they vary from the sickly-sentimental to the macabre to the ridiculous and are crammed with medieval religious symbolism.

After many fascinating hours, I am glad to say that I have emerged unscathed from my journey through the ‘Desert of Religion’, thanks to some excellent reference works on this manuscript, which continues to provide scope for further study. So, venture forth, those who dare! You will discover delights, like this image of a man up a tree:


Emblematic drawing of a man in a tree (man's life) pursued by a unicorn (death), taking honey (worldly vanities), while a white mouse (day) and a black mouse (night) gnaw at the trunk. Four serpents beneath represent the four elements, and a dragon’s open mouth awaits victims (London, British Library, MS Additional 37049, f. 19v).

The contents include a verse on the founding of the Carthusian Order and, of course, ‘The Desert of Religion’, an allegorical poem using the symbol of a ‘tree of twelve virtues’ growing in the desert to illustrate the spiritual battle between virtue and vice. Diagrams of trees on alternate pages bear the names of virtues and vices on their trunks and leaves, giving visual form to the allegory.


The tree of virtues, bearing leaves such as ‘Diligence’, ‘Mercy’ and ‘Reson’ (London, British Library, MS Additional 37049, f. 47r).

Other verses and texts, varying in length from several pages to a mere two-line caption on a scroll in an image, bear titles like ‘The Dawnce of Makabre’, ‘The Abuses of the Age’, ‘Come follow me my friends into hell’, and a personal favourite, ‘The disputacion betwyx the body and worms’ – you have to love these cheeky-faced worms!


A skeleton and worms debating, accompanied by the dialogue (London, British Library, MS Additional 37049, f. 34v).

The wounds of Christ, and even the number of drops of blood he shed, are the subject of a number of poems, all with graphic illustrations. Deathbed scenes are another favourite.


A macabre illustration of Christ nailed to a tree, with wounds dripping blood. The monk kneeling in front of him wears the white robes of the Carthusian order, one of the indications that this work was produced in an English Charterhouse. The dialect is Northern, so the monasteries of Mount Grace or Kingston-upon-Hull in Yorkshire have been proposed as possible places of origin (London, British Library, MS Additional 37049, f. 67v).

Described as a ‘spiritual encyclopedia of the Middle Ages’, for me this work provides an example of the delightful otherness of the medieval mind-set. And yet, do people really change? Macabre scenes of death and mutilation continue to fascinate and entertain modern audiences – the recent film series, Saw, is a particularly bloodthirsty example!

Chantry Westwell


Select bibliography

‘An Illustrated Yorkshire Carthusian Religious Miscellany’, ed. by James Hogg, 3 vols Analecta Cartusiana, 95 (Salzburg: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1981-) III (1981), The Illustrations.

Douglas Gray, ‘London, British Library, Additional MS 37049 – A Spiritual Encyclopedia’, in Text and Controversy from Wyclif to Bale, ed. by Helen Barr and Ann M. Hutchinson (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), pp. 99-116.

Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards, A New Index of Middle English Verse (London: British Library, 2005).

Jessica Brantley, Reading in the Wilderness: Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

10 July 2013

Medieval Maps of the Holy Land

P. D. A. Harvey's most recent book, Medieval Maps of the Holy Land, is a richly-illustrated study of eight regional maps of Palestine, drawn between the 12th and the 14th centuries. Some of those maps survive as the work of the original mapmaker, most notably those of Matthew Paris; others are copies or derivatives of original maps that are now lost. Together, as Harvey argues, they are "of considerable interest for the light they throw on the way maps were thought of and constructed in medieval Europe. They contribute too to our understanding of the way Palestine [used purely as a geographical term] was viewed at a period when the crusades gave it particular interest."

The Acre map of Matthew Paris (London, British Library, MS Royal 14 C VII, f. 4v).

The maps featured are now dispersed worldwide, being held in Florence, London, Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, Brussels, Bruges, the Vatican and New York. For instance, the Ashburnham Libri Map is kept at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. Harvey describes how it was examined in Paris by Sir Frederic Madden in 1846, with a view to purchasing it for the British Museum. But the sale fell through when Madden was informed that Guglielmo Libri was not just a collector but also a dealer, and "was suspected to have stolen a portion of the MSS. he possessed."

Two of these medieval maps of Palestine are now cared for by the British Library. The two Tournai maps (Additional MS 10049, f. 64r and f. 64v) were made in the late-12th century, and belonged to the abbey of St Martin at Tournai. The recto supplies a map of Palestine, overlaid and replaced by a map of Asia; the verso has a second map of Palestine, again partly overlaid and replaced by yet another map of Palestine. One notable feature is a parchment patch, covering an original hole, used on one side to depict Crete and the other the Caucasus mountains.

The Acre map of Matthew Paris (London, British Library, MS Royal 14 C VII, f. 5r).

The second British Library map described by Harvey is the Acre map of Matthew Paris (Royal MS 14 C VII, ff. 4v-5r), with other versions surviving at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The British Library example can be viewed on our Digitised Manuscripts site. That in Royal 14 C VII is said to be the most carefully executed of the three copies, and probably the first to be drawn, since its inscriptions are shorter and mostly in Latin rather than in French. Also found in the same book is an illustrated itinerary from London to south Italy, depicting the towns en route, mostly one day's journey apart, and with no contemporary or earlier medieval parallel.

The itinerary from London to Italy (London, British Library, MS Royal 14 C VII, f. 2r).

Medieval Maps of the Holy Land is published by the British Library (ISBN 9780712358248), and is available from the online shop.