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Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts
 Detail from the Roman de la Rose
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Search tips

Simple search
Manuscript search
Advanced search
Further techniques
- Combining search terms
- Truncation
- Quote marks
Iconographic searches
Troubleshooting
Terminology

Please note that the 'Site search' icon in the left hand sidebar links to the search engine for the British Library website. It does not cover the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

Simple search


Allows searches on a keyword on its own, or modified with a date range.
example:

keyword: Psalter
start date: 500
end date: 1000

If you wish to see only images that match the keyword, then select the 'Image descriptions only' button. This restricts the search to image descriptions, and only matching images will be displayed.

Hint:

Use the truncation character (*) when searching image descriptions, as this will pick up both singular and plural forms e.g., bird* will pick up images described as containing one bird or a number of birds.

Manuscript search


If you know the manuscript number of the item you are looking for, you can select the collection from the pull-down menu and enter the number.
N.B. DO NOT include commas or any other punctuation in manuscript numbers.

examples:

collection: Egerton MS
number: 1526

If the manuscript number is left blank, then all records from that collection are retrieved. E.g.:

Collection: Egerton MS
Number [blank]

Will retrieve all items in the catalogue from the Egerton collection.

Advanced search

This option allows you to find illuminated manuscripts using names, dates, languages, and other terms from the detailed records that make up the catalogue. You can search on one type of information or combinations.

examples:

Title: Psalter
Origin: France

Language: English
Start date: 1400
End date: 1500

The search form is divided into two parts: the larger top part (above the line) refers to information about the manuscript as a whole, while the lower part refers to the catalogued images. You may combine terms from either or both parts.

examples:

Origin: France
Image description: Nativity

Note that when you search using one of the image search fields, the results will show only those images which match the image part of your search: if you use only the manuscript search fields then all images of matching manuscripts are shown in the results.

Date searches:

Normally the date search will refer to the date of the manuscript's creation (see example above). Where the date is uncertain or within a given range, then the search will select it if any part of the range falls within the start and end dates given.

example:

Start date: 1400
End date: 1500

Will include in its search an item dated 'between 1495 and 1520'

For 'open ended' date searches leave one of the boxes empty. Thus

Start date: [blank]
End date: 900

Will select all manuscripts created before 900.

You may also search for dates within the manuscript's provenance field, e.g. dates of acquisition or dated ownership inscriptions. To incude provenance within the search check the 'Date search by provenance' box. This is often useful in conjunction with the 'provenance' text search.

example:

Provenance: Sotheby
Start date: 1900
End date: 1920
Date search by provenance checked

Will include among its results items bought or sold at Sotheby's between 1900 and 1920.

Further techniques

This section is a more detailed guide to the way in which the free-text search logic works in this catalogue, and the techniques you may use to refine your searches. Mostly the logic follows common conventions, but there are some exceptions. The following guidelines should be used:

Combining search terms

Join words with 'and', 'or', 'and not', e.g.:
  • Bible and Psalter will find records containing the word Bible and the word Psalter
  • Bible or Psalter will find records containing the word Psalter or containing the word Bible
  • Bible and not Psalter will find records containing the word Bible but not also containing the word Psalter
Two or more consecutive words without 'and', 'or', 'and not' will be treated as a phrase.

Truncation

Use * to truncate words or phrases and search on word 'stems', e.g. :
  • Psal* will find records containing the word Psalm, Psalter, Psalmody etc. etc..

    In particular adding the * will find both singular and plural versions of a word, e.g. bird* will match both bird and birds

Truncation is applied to the whole phrase where relevant, i.e. to every word in it, e.g.:
  • ful pa* will find records containing the phrase fully painted etc..

Use of quote marks

Single- or double- quotes around words or phrases are ignored in searching, and so are redundant

Single quotes within words are treated as text to be found, e.g.:
  • O'Connor will find records containing the name O'Connor.

Iconographic searches

While it is possible to search for iconographic elements, please note that these searches only cover the images available on this site, not the contents of each manuscript.

Troubleshooting

If you can't find a specific manuscript:

  • It could be that it isn't yet on the web: currently the site does not include manuscripts in the Royal, Additional or Cotton collections, and includes only part of the Harley collection.

If the link to the Manuscripts On-Line Catalogue doesn't work:

It is likely that the manuscript does not have a MOLCAT entry. See http://www.bl.uk/collections/manuscriptscat.html for a list of the collections currently included in this service.

Terminology

Our terminology aims to be consistent, but not prescriptive: in order to direct users to readily available published illustrated examples of the application of terminology, definitions of most terms used in the Catalogue are based on those in:

Michelle P. Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms ( 2nd edn., London: British Library, 1993), a modified version of which is available on this site in the Glossary. Permission to make this text available on-line has kindly been granted by the publishers and the author.

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