Burney manuscripts

From Burney manuscript
Siege engine, described in Biton’s De constructione bellicarum machinarum, in Burney MS 69, f 12v. Venice, 1545.

The Burney collection of manuscripts is one of the most significant collections of classical material in the British Library.

About the collection

This collection, comprising 525 volumes, was assembled by Charles Burney, classicist and bibliophile. Son of the famous historian of music Charles Burney and brother of the novelist Fanny Burney, he was also an avid collector of printed books, newspapers, and playbills, all of which were purchased by the British Museum after his death.

While the Burney manuscripts are best known for the fine classical manuscripts, this is only a small part of the collection. Burney also collected important manuscripts of the Bible and of the Greek and Latin Church Fathers, as well as a wide range of papers and letters belonging to classical scholars.

The collection includes:

  • The Bible and commentaries on the Bible
  • Greek Fathers and Greek liturgy
  • Greek authors
  • Miscellaneous Greek texts, including early modern texts
  • Latin authors and miscellany
  • Greek and Latin fragments
  • Miscellaneous Latin texts
  • Latin Fathers and post-classical authors, including devotional texts
  • Letters and papers of scholars
  • Greek texts omitted from earlier sequence
  • Burney’s notes

What is available online?

The majority of Burney’s Greek manuscripts have been digitised in full, and can be viewed on Digitised Manuscripts. Selected images for many of the Greek and Latin manuscripts can be viewed on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

A printed catalogue (in Latin) of the Burney manuscripts was published in 1840:

  • Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British Museum, New Series, vol. I, part 2. The Burney Manuscripts (London, 1840). Bound and indexed jointly with the Arundel MSS.

The Greek manuscripts were catalogued more recently in:

  • The British Library Summary Catalogue of Greek Manuscripts, vol. I (London, 1999)

Further information

A more detailed guide to Burney, his life, and his manuscripts, can be found in a virtual exhibition on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts website.

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