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Picture Research in the Department of Manuscripts

There are a number of resources available for picture researchers looking for images from medieval (and later) manuscripts. Staff will be happy to assist, but as only a limited amount of time can be made available for each enquiry, we regret that they cannot engage in lengthy picture research on behalf of enquirers.


Images in the Department of Manuscripts consist mainly of drawings and paintings in medieval and renaissance illuminated manuscripts, but there are also images of later manuscripts, and of charters, seals, papyri, ostraka, and other materials. Manuscript maps and topographical drawings can also be found in the collections.

Other illustrated material can be found in the Map Collections, Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections, in printed books and in the British Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings.

Finding images

Much picture research can now be done online, without a visit. The Library has three online picture resources:

  • Images Online: a large miscellaneous selection of the Library's photographs, including medieval manuscripts.
  • Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts: an ongoing project to systematically describe the Library's illuminated manuscripts, collection-by-collection, with a selection of images from each.
  • Collect Britain: provides images relating to the British Isles, from medieval manuscripts and other Library collections.

These resources will usually be the best places to start, especially if you know that you will want a colour digital image (rather than, for example, a black & white print), but they represent only a very small percentage of the images in the Library's manuscripts collections

A very large number of images can be found in publications many of which will be easily available from the British Library's bookshop, other bookshops, in other libraries, or through the inter-library loan system.

For the very large numbers of images not yet published, and not yet available online, however, a visit to the Library Manuscripts Reading Room may be necessary. Note that you need to register to use our Reading Rooms and that there are additional regulations to see Manuscripts. Requests to consult original manuscripts must be accompanied by a written recommendation, though many original manuscripts are not available for picture research.