The Digitised Manuscripts site contains many different kinds of manuscripts, archives and documents. Much
of the content available here has been digitised as part of the British Library’s digitisation projects,
details of which are given below.
There are more than 600 Greek manuscripts ranging in date from the 9th century to the 18th century included
in the Digitised Manuscripts site. These were digitised during two phases of a project funded generously by
the Stavros Niarchos Foundation between 2008 and 2010.
They include manuscripts from the British Library’s Additional, Harley, Arundel and Royal manuscript collections,
which demonstrate the range of Greek manuscripts, and include some of the highlights of the Library's collections.
The British Library holds approximately 1,000 Greek manuscripts, and intends to digitise the remainder in the next
three years. Newly digitised Greek manuscripts will be announced on the
Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog.
Harley Scientific Manuscripts
The Harley Science Project, funded by William and Judith Bollinger, makes available images and descriptions of
150 medieval and modern scientific manuscripts from the British Library’s Harley collection. The Project also
incorporates updated records of seventy-two medical manuscripts that were created in 2005–2007 for the Harley
Medical Manuscripts Catalogue funded by the Wellcome Trust.
The Harley collection, created by the statesman Robert Harley (1661–1724) and his son Edward Harley, is
particularly rich in scientific material. The manuscripts selected for the project range in date from the
9th century to the 17th century, and are written in a variety of European languages (including Latin, Old
and Middle English, Middle Dutch, Anglo-Norman and Old French, German, Irish, Italian and Spanish). They
comprise texts relating to early scientific knowledge, such as astronomy, astrology, the computus, mathematics,
physics, botany, medicine and veterinary science.
Royal Illuminated Manuscripts
In 1757 King George II presented approximately 2,000 manuscripts to the newly founded British Museum. Since that
time, the manuscripts have remained together as the Royal collection. This collection preserves the medieval and
Renaissance library of the kings and queens of England, and includes some of the most important examples of
medieval painting of both English and Continental origin that survive in illuminated manuscripts.
From 11 November 2011 to 13 March 2012, around 150 of these manuscripts were featured in a major exhibition at
the British Library: Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination. Descriptions and images of these and nearly
400 others are available on the online
Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.
Sixty-seven manuscripts included in the exhibition are to be added to the Digitised Manuscripts site by the end
of summer 2012 as part of a project funded generously by the AHRC. These manuscripts were chosen based on their
importance for current research, including textual, historical and art-historical studies. Around fifteen
manuscripts were selected in response to suggestions from the broader academic community received through the
Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog
and email requests.
Botany in British India
This project, generously funded by the AHRC, will digitise over 100 files from the India Office Records relating
to botanical exploration in India between 1780 and 1850. The records have been identified by an earlier AHRC-funded
project, Science and the Changing Environment in India, 1780-1920: a guide to sources in the India Office Records
(British Library, 2010). Among the subjects covered are: networks of nineteenth-century botanical gardens;
plant-collecting expeditions; and the use of plants as foodstuffs, industrial products and medicines.
Related records have already been digitised for
Wallich and Indian Natural History, a collaborative project between the British Library, Kew Gardens and
the Natural History Museum. Detailed catalogue records will be created to accompany the digital images. For
further information and for regular updates from the Project Officer, see
British India. The files will be added to the Digitised Manuscripts site by November 2012.
Some of the British Library’s most important music manuscripts are featured in Digitised Manuscripts, including
the autograph scores of Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier (‘The Well-Tempered
Clavier’), Book II, and Henry Purcell’s large autograph scorebooks. From earlier times, there is the medieval
song ‘Sumer is icumen in’ (in the miscellany Harley MS 978), and Henry VIII’s choirbook, Royal MS 11 E XI.
Several Mozart manuscripts are included, among them the composer’s own catalogue of his works (Zweig MS 63).
The British Library recently obtained funding to digitise the Stefan Zweig Music Collection, one of the most
remarkable collections of music manuscripts ever assembled. It contains 143 music manuscripts of composers
ranging from Bach, Haydn and Mozart to Beethoven, Wagner and Ravel. These will be added to Digitised Manuscripts
over the coming months. To mark the centenary in 2013 of Benjamin Britten’s birth, the Library is also digitising
its substantial collection of Britten manuscripts. Details of all newly-digitised music manuscripts will be posted
on the Music in the British Library Blog.
Over fifty Thai manuscripts and the Chakrabongse Archive of Royal Letters have been digitised with the generous
support of the Royal Thai Government, in celebration of the occasion of the eightieth birthday anniversary of His
Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand on 5 December 2007.
The majority of Thai manuscripts included in this project are illuminated Buddhist folding books (samut khoi)
from central Thailand dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the highlights are several Phra Malai
manuscripts, The Ten Birth Tales, a Traiphum cosmology, a Kammavaca manuscript for the
ordination of monks, a Royal Elephant Treatise, an important Thai historical chronicle (copied by royal scribes
c.1840) and Henry Mouhot's Alphabets and Inscriptions.
The Royal Letters were written by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and his sons King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) and Prince
Chakrabongse between 1896 and 1915 while Prince Chakrabongse lived and studied in Britain and Russia. They cover
a range of personal and political topics and are an important source for the understanding of the history of
relations between Thailand and European countries.
US Civil War Materials
This is a collection of materials relating to the US Civil War, 1861–1865, with a focus on British connections
to the conflict. This project is sponsored by the American Trust for the British Library. Read more about the
project on the Team Americas Blog.