Collection News / Penn Libraries

British Literary Manuscripts Online: Medieval and Renaissance

Penn Libraries recently subscribed to a second module within the popular British Literary Manuscripts Online database: Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. The new module adds facsimiles from 1120 to 1660, supplementing the existing collection of manuscripts dated 1600-1900.


“Petri Carmeliani Brixiensis poete suasoria Leticie ad Angliam pro sublatis bellis ciuilibus et  Arthuro principe nato epistola”: a Latin elegiac poem in praise of Henry VII. 12th century AD to 15th century AD. British Library, MS Medieval Manuscripts from Additional Manuscripts, Section B 33,736.

The collection draws from the Cotton Collection at the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Well-known literary works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight sit beside The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, historical accounts, collections of poetry, songs, and sermons. Unlike many popular editions of these works, the black and white microfilm facsimiles within British Literary Manuscripts Online allow scholars to examine the paleography and other scribal and material differences between texts. The texts demand a patient eye, though, as facsimiles generated from microfilm can be grainy and, at times, difficult to read.

Note that while record metadata is searchable – the date, title, author, source library, and brief descriptions of works – the works themselves are not full-text searchable.

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