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Medieval Manuscripts Guide

Medieval manuscripts collection guide

We have considerable numbers of medieval manuscripts in Special Collections, which primarily come from three of our collections:

Half of these contain illumination – decoration such as initials, borders, and illustrations. There are as many again in terms of codices (handwritten pages stitched together), along with a considerable number of documents and fragments.

The largest group of manuscripts are from the Brotherton Collection. These include:

In addition, the Brotherton Collection contains a manuscript Universal Chronicle, also know as ‘The History Roll,’ which takes the form of a roll nearly eighteen metres long.

The Library of Ripon Cathedral is held on long-term deposit. It contains nine medieval manuscripts, including a Latin Bible of c.1260 and the Ripon Psalter of 1418. Hidden in this collection are many medieval manuscript fragments, recycled to strengthen the bindings of the books. Around 70 fragments have been physically removed from the books – these now comprise the Ripon Cathedral Manuscript Fragments Collection – and a much greater number remain.

The Ripon Dean and Chapter Archives consist of the medieval fabric and account rolls, chapter acts and court papers.

Searching the collections

Page descriptions and images are available via manuscript catalogue records.

A number of manuscripts have been digitised in full, including all illuminated manuscripts.

The language of each manuscript is stated in its record.

Additional medieval material can be found in the collections of the Yorkshire Archaeological & Historical Society and some medieval items in Hebrew were collected by Cecil Roth.

Find out more in our research spotlight

You can find out more about our medieval manuscripts through our medieval illuminated manuscripts research spotlight.

Detailed research on the provenance of individual manuscripts has been made available. It reveals geographic origins, previous owners and the creators of illustrations.

The digitised pages of manuscripts can be zoomed in detail to aid analysis. Pages can be turned and browsed, and descriptions can be used to select specific images.