Digitization of Medieval Manuscripts

Lines of beauty: British Library’s medieval manuscripts go digital ". . . .Two hundred of the highest-profile and most valuable manuscripts in the collection are currently undergoing digitisation. The six photographed exclusively for the FT can be viewed online from today, the first time readers all over the world will be able to see them in full. Among them is the Spanish “Silos Apocalypse”, as vivid and well-preserved as if the monk had just stopped for lunch. “You couldn’t go down to WH Smith and get that kind of yellow felt tip pen,” says Julian Harrison, curator of pre-1600 manuscripts. You’d have a similarly hard time finding the ink for the ninth-century “Harley Golden Gospels”, written in gold. . . . . Many of these books have been treasured for centuries, on a shelf or inside a desk drawer. As such, they are often much less well known than paintings from the same periods, and much better preserved. “The illuminated manuscripts contain a fantastic number of works of art from the medieval period – far more than you’d find in the National Gallery,” says Breay. Doyle agrees. “Because they are in this form, they survived.”… “Every time you look at a medieval manuscript, you see something you’ve never seen before.” As more libraries put their collections online, the question remains of what happens to the institutions left behind. So far, digitisation of manuscripts has increased demand to see the originals. And for every reader turning pages in a hushed reading room, many more are clicking through them in the comfort of their homes or classrooms, with 100,000 visiting the British Library site to date. Some might even notice those follicles. As Harrison puts it, “They’re not museum objects, not something to be put in a case. They’re still a book. There’s still so much you can learn from it.”. . . ."

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