Discover the British Library’s unique collection of medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. Collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years these treasures are outstanding examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era.
Additional support gratefully received from The Helen Hamlyn Trust and an anonymous donor
Research for the exhibition generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council
Media partner The Times
A wedding present for Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI
The Shrewsbury Book is one of the most remarkable manuscripts in the Old Royal library. It was a gift to Margaret of Anjou from John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. Margaret is shown with her husband Henry VI.
The Shrewsbury Book
British Library, Royal 15 E. vi, ff. 2v
The author presenting his chronicle to Edward IV
Lavishly illuminated in the Netherlands, this chronicle was commissioned by Edward IV, whose arms appear in the lower border. He is shown here with its author, Jean de Wavrin.
Jean de Wavrin, Recueil des chroniques d’Engleterre, vol. 1
Bruges, c. 1475
Royal 15 E. iv, vol. 1, f. 14
King Edgar and Christ in majesty
A charter written in book form, this commemorates the introduction in 964 of the Benedictine rule at New Minster, Winchester, by King Edgar. He offers the book to Christ, who is enthroned and held aloft by angels.
The New Minster Charter
British Library, Cotton Vespasian A. viii, f. 2v
The exploits of Alexander the Great
Alexander was a fitting role model for young princes and kings. The inscription 'HR' (Henricus Rex) added at the beginning of the book shows that the volume was in the library of Henry VIII.
Le Livre et la vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre
Paris, c. 1420-1425
British Library, Royal 20 B. xx, f. 49v
The author and the arms of Henry VIII
This manuscript contains works by Lucian of Samosata and Pandolfo Collenuccio. We know that the book was made as a gift for Henry VIII because it includes his arms in the lower border.
Pandolfo Collenuccio, Apologues, and Lucian of Samosata, Dialogues
Rome and Florence, c. 1509–17
British Library, Royal 12 C. viii, f. 4
Genealogy of William the Conqueror
Genealogical rolls made in the late 13th and 14th centuries tend to emphasise, as this one does, the joint Norman and Anglo-Saxon descent of the Plantagenets.
Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings
England (East Anglia?), c. 1300–07
British Library, Royal 14 B. vi