You are in Introduction. Click here to skip the navigation.
British Library
Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
 Detail from the Roman de la Rose
About Simple search Manuscript search Advanced search  Virtual exhibitions Glossaries Contact us  Main
print Print this page
home Home
site search Search British Library website
back Back
 
 
     
 

Illuminated manuscripts: a guide to the British Library’s collections

Introduction Foundation collections Open-ended collections

The closed collections

Royal
Lansdowne
Hargrave
Burney
King’s
Arundel
Stowe
Yates Thompson

Many of the manuscript collections in the British Library were acquired, either by purchase, gift or bequest, more or less in their entirety. These collections are known as ‘closed’ because no further material will be added to them. Some of these collections are rich in illuminated manuscripts, while others have few (or none). The list that follows includes only those collections that contain illuminated manuscripts; for a complete list of the collections, visit www.bl.uk/collections/manuscriptscoll.html

Royal     Top top

In 1757, King George II presented to the nation the manuscripts and printed books accumulated over several centuries by British sovereigns, beginning with Edward IV. Richly endowed with illuminated manuscripts, the collection has several areas of particular strength, including Bibles and biblical commentaries, histories, devotional books, and legal texts.

Catalogue

*Available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue, except the index

G.F. Warner and J.P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King’s Collection, 4 vols (London, 1921).

Further Reading

J. P. Carley, ed. The Libraries of King Henry VIII (London, 2000).

See also the introduction to Warner and Gilson, as above.

Royal 2 B VII, f.151
The Queen Mary Psalter. England (probably London/Westminster), c.1320.
Royal 2 B VII, f.151


Royal 18 D IX, f.5
Bible historiale of Edward IV. Bruges, 1479.
Royal 18 D IX, f.5


Lansdowne.    Top top

The manuscripts collected by William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805; also known as Lord Shelburne) were purchased for the British Museum with a parliamentary grant in 1807. The collection is better known for its holdings of modern political papers than its illuminated medieval manuscripts, despite the distinction of its medieval material. Perhaps the most celebrated medieval manuscript in the collection is the Shaftesbury Psalter (Lansdowne 383), made in England in the 1130s.

Catalogue

*Available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue, excluding the index

A Catalogue of the Lansdowne Manuscripts in the British Museum, (London, 1819).

Lansdowne 383, ff. 12v-13
Shaftesbury Psalter. England (West Country), c.1130-40.
Lansdowne 383, ff. 12v-13

Hargrave     Top top

This collection of more than 500 legal manuscripts was purchased in 1813 from Francis Hargrave, KC (d.1821).

Catalogue

*Available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue.

A catalogue of manuscripts formerly in the possession of Francis Hargrave (London, 1818) (London, 1819).

Burney    Top top

Charles Burney, D.D. (d.1817), classicist, teacher and bibliophile, amassed a collection of more than 500 manuscripts which was purchased from his executors in 1818. The collection emphasises classical, biblical and medieval authors, and has particular strengths in humanistic and Greek material.

Catalogue

*Index available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue

The Burney Manuscripts [Catalogue of manuscripts in the British Museum, New Series, vol. I], (London, 1840).

Burney 20, f.90v
Gospels. E. Mediterranean (Constantinople?), 1285.
Burney 20, f.90v

King's    Top top

In 1823, King George IV presented the library of his father, George III, to the nation. This library, distinguished in post-medieval manuscripts, geographical and topographical material, also contained some medieval manuscripts.

Catalogue

*Index available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue except the Index.

George Warner and Julius P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King’s Collections, 4 vols (London, 1921).

Further Reading

Elaine M. Paintin, The King’s Library (London, 1989).

George Warner and Julius P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King’s Collections, Volume 3 (London 1921), pp.vii-ix.

Kings 5, f.5
Biblia pauperum. N. Netherlands (The Hague), c. 1395-1400.
Kings 5, f.5

Arundel    Top top

Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (d.1646), amassed what stands as the first major British art collection, which included painting, sculpture, and manuscripts. In 1666 his grandson, Henry Howard, divided the library between the Royal Society and the College of Arms. In 1831 the British Museum purchased the Royal Society’s share of more than 500 manuscripts.

Catalogue

*Available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue.

The Arundel Manuscripts [Catalogue of manuscripts in the British Museum, New Series, vol. I], (London, 1834).

Further Reading

David Howarth, Lord Arundel and His Circle (New Haven, 1985).

Francis C. Springell, Connoisseur and Diplomat: The Earl of Arundel’s Embassy to Germany in 1636 as recounted in William Crowne’s Diary, the Earl’s letters, and other contemporary sources...(London, 1963).

Mary F. S. Hervey, The Life, Correspondence and Collections of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (Cambridge, 1921).

Arundel 155 f.133
Eadui Psalter. England (Christ Church, Canterbury), c. 1012-1023
Arundel 155 f.133


Arundel 83 (II), f.124v
Psalter of Robert De Lisle. England (London?), c. 1310-1340.
Arundel 83 (II), f.124v

Stowe    Top top

Named after Stowe House where the library was assembled by Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (d.1839), the collection was purchased in 1849 by the 4th Earl of Ashburnham. In 1883, the British Museum purchased the collection from the 5th Earl of Ashburnham. Manuscripts of Irish interest were deposited at the Library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, and the rest at the British Museum.

Catalogue

*Available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue.

Catalogue of the Stowe Manuscripts in the British Museum, 2 vols. (London, 1895-1896).

Stowe 944, f. 6v-7
Liber Vitae of Newminster and Hyde. England (Winchester), c. 1031.
Stowe 944, f. 6v-7


Stowe 17, f.98v  (detail)
Hours. S. Netherlands (Liège; Meuse region), 1310-20.
Stowe 17, f.98v (detail)

Yates Thompson    Top top

Henry Yates Thompson (d.1928) assembled a relatively small collection of high-quality illuminated manuscripts. His goal was to possess one hundred of the finest manuscripts that he could acquire; once this ‘Hundred’ was established, he refined the collection by discarding lesser books to make way for new acquisitions. Much of the collection was dispersed by sale and gift before Thompson’s death in 1928, and the residue was bequeathed to the British Museum by his widow, who died in 1941. The British Library has fifty-two Yates Thompson manuscripts.

A virtual tour of the Yates Thompson collection is available on this website.

Catalogue

*Not available on the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue.

A Descriptive Catalogue of Fifty Manuscripts from the Collection of Henry Yates Thompson (Cambridge, 1898).

A Descriptive Catalogue of the Second Series of Fifty Manuscripts (Nos. 51 to 100) in the Collection of Henry Yates Thompson (Cambridge, 1902).

A Descriptive Catalogue of Twenty Illuminated Manuscripts, Nos. LXXV to XVIV (Replacing Twenty Discarded from the Original Hundred) in the Collection of Henry Yates Thompson (3rd series, Cambridge, 1907).

A Descriptive Catalogue of Fourteen Illuminated Manuscripts (Nos.XCV to CVII and 79A) Completing the Hundred in the Library of Henry Yates Thompson (Cambridge, 1912).

Further Reading

See the bibliography on the Henry Yates Thompson Tour




Introduction Foundation collections Open-ended collections
print Print this page
home Home
site search Search British Library website
back Back
top Back