I’m Looking for a Manuscript That…


… has a certain script.
… shows a certain activity.
… is from 9th century Egypt.

If you like pre-1600 manuscripts or are researching a historical activity pre-1600 you have done or asked some version of these questions. We all have. And for many of us we had no idea where to look or how to look for these things until someone kindly shared with us those resources. I have asked these questions many times myself and today I’m sharing with you what was shared with me.

My resources for looking up and finding things in manuscripts in the pre-1600 world.

My go to resourse is the “Digital Scriptorium“. This resource is run by UC Berkley and the Rare Book Manuscript Library of Columbia University. In their own words, “The Digital Scriptorium project, funded chiefly by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was originally a joint project of the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley) and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Columbia University to digitize and make available on the World Wide Web cataloging and selected images from the two universities’ medieval and early Renaissance manuscript collections.” You can learn more about them here.

To use the digital scriptorium you can use the basic search function. Like all basic manuscript search functions it is limited. But if that’s all you need, that’s fine. The advanced search function is in the header bar toward the right of your screen. The advanced function allows for boolean searches. I know scary term but it simply means you can create a more tailored search for what you want.

You can search by and in combination or in combination the fields of Shelfmark, Author, Title, Docket, Language, Provinence, Binding and/or Caption as well as in any of them. You can search KEYwords or you can do a keyword PROXIMITY search. So this can really help you narrow down results if you wish.

Of course sometimes we don’t want narrow results. We want a broad swath of results. Okay, advanced search does that too.

You want to find manuscripts written withing a certain time period? You got it. You want a specific date? You can do that too. Do you want figurative decoration? Do you want a manuscript created in a certain country? Or do you want to look through a certain manuscript repository’s digital collection? You can do that. And you can mix and match. As you can see at the bottom of the screenshot you can choose how many results are shown per page. Not shown is that you can click a box below that and limit your search to results that will give you digital copies to look at.

Sometimes we are looking for a specific manuscript repository. There’s a resource for that too. My favorite one to look at is from “Sexy Codicology” and is the Digital Medieval Manuscript Application or DMMap. It links to more than 500 manuscript libraries around the world. At first it seems a bit bland and maybe clunky.

You can look at it for country city library and it will even give you a rough count of how many medieval manuscripts the library has. It is searchable and useful and nice. If you click on an entry it will take you to that libary.
For those of us who prefer a more visual approach, scroll down and you see this:

Oh… oh yeah. That is essentially a google map of every single manuscript repository they have in “Sexy Codicology” has put in their data base. You can zoom in and zoom out if you hit the control key at the same time as you use your nomal zooming function. No it isn’t just in Europe. Click on the drop pin and you get the name of the library and some other information. Click on that again and you get taken to the libary’s web presence.

Any such list should include other entries as well. The British Libary, The National Archives (UK), The Bibliothèque nationale de France and The Digital Walters. This and many other such repositories will be done in this series of blog posts.

2 responses to “I’m Looking for a Manuscript That…

  1. Pingback: Manuscript Scavenger Hunt? Second in a series. | scribescribbling·

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