The online digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts began as the British Library's Department of Manuscripts prepared to move from the British Museum site in Bloomsbury to St Pancras in 1998. Ahead of this, at Bloomsbury, a team of curators initiated the Catalogue and created an inventory of manuscripts for inclusion, surveying the entire manuscripts collection.
In 1997, the Getty Grant Program generously provided funding for the appointment of a project officer to assist in the shelf survey and construction of the pilot project leading to the public release of this site in July 2003.
In March 2004 the first phase of the main project commenced in partnership with the Centre for Manuscript and Print Study, Institute of English Studies, University of London. This phase was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and was completed successfully in March 2007. During the AHRC-funded phase of the project over 2,000 new records were created, and around 12,000 images added to the Catalogue.
In 2006, the Getty Foundation generously funded the inclusion of the Harley collection in the project. This phase was completed in August 2009.
In July 2008 the British Library, in collaboration with The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, was awarded a research grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to support an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts in the Royal collection in 2011. As part of this grant, catalogue records for over 600 illuminated manuscripts in the Royal collection are included in the Catalogue.
In 2010 the cataloguing of the Libraryís Italian cuttings was funded as part of a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Councilís Collaborative Doctoral programme.
In 2010-2011 the cataloguing of over 100 illuminated manuscripts in Hebrew was funded by the American Trust for the British Library in memory of William T. Golden, the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, Roger and Julie Baskes, Chicago, USA, and an anonymous donor.
In February 2012 the Arts and Humanities Research Council awarded a follow-on grant to the Library to digitise fully 40-50 manuscript featured in the Royal exhibition. Over 70 manuscripts from the exhibition are now on available on Digitised Manuscripts. As part of this grant additional images from these manuscripts have been added to the Catalogue. Since then, selected manuscripts and additional images have been added to the Catalogue as they become available.