Medieval manuscripts blog

09 December 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas from the British Library

There’s still time to get organised for the forthcoming holidays! If you’re stuck for ideas, need inspiration, or are puzzling about what to get that special someone, let the British Library take the stress out of the shopping. 

Here are some of our favourites – all medieval-themed, of course – which are available either from the shop at St Pancras or from the British Library Online Shop

- The 2015 Illuminated Manuscripts Calendar, featuring an array of colourful and elaborate miniatures from the pages of manuscripts in the British Library collection, with captions written by our own fair hands. 

- A chance to get to grips with one of the most famous Old English poems, with the Electronic Beowulf. The DVD contains a line-by-line translation as well as critical apparatus and – best of all – a complete digital colour facsimile of the manuscript, Cotton MS Vitellius A XV. 

- What did spoken English sound like in the early sixteenth century? Here’s a chance to find out: William Tyndale’s Bible was the first text of the Bible to be printed in English, and St Matthew’s Gospel is read out in the original English by Prof. David Crystal. This is available both as a CD and a download

Calligraphy set
- If you know someone who fancies trying his or her hand at being a scribe, perhaps this calligraphy set (complete with quill) would be ideal. Check out Digitised Manuscripts for models to follow; the ambitious scribe might want to take a look at the Macclesfield Alphabet Book (Add MS 88887), also available as a facsimile

- The Illuminated Manuscripts Notebook, featuring a miniature from the Saluces Hours on the cover, would make the perfect journal for the New Year. 

Don’t forget: images of many of our most famous manuscript treasures are available as prints.  They are available in a range of sizes, on different materials, and can be ordered with frames.  Here’s a few that caught our eye: 

- Saint Dunstan, hard at work – from a manuscript made at Canterbury between c. 1170 and c. 1180 (Royal MS 10 A XIII). 

Henry VIII
- Henry VIII, depicted as King David, playing a harp in a private chamber – from a Psalter that the King himself owned (Royal MS 2 A XVI). 

- The Nativity, from the Benedictional of St Aethelwold, made between 963 and 984 (Add MS 49598). 

There’s also a great selection of books to choose from – here’s three to look out for: 

- 1000 Years of Royal Books and Manuscripts, edited by Scot McKendrick and Kathleen Doyle: this collection of scholarly essays delves into the question of what books were commissioned, owned and read by kings and queens of England, and arose from the highly popular Royal Manuscripts Exhibition in 2011-12. 

- A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel: need an entertaining introduction to the world of medieval books, their decoration and readers – or know someone who does?  Look no further! 

- Illuminators and Patrons in Fourteenth-Century England, by Lucy Freeman Sandler: no scholarly library should be without a copy of this book!  It was launched at a British Library conference on 1st December.  Detailed and accessible, it contains the latest research into the wonderful Bohun Psalter by Lucy Freeman Sandler, Professor Emerita at New York University (a precis of the book will be forthcoming on the blog!).


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