This curated selection explores medieval manuscripts that were digitised as part of The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project: Manuscripts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, 700–1200. Discover stunning highlights of illuminated manuscripts set in their cultural and historical context and explored in a range of articles.

All of the 800 manuscripts digitised in the project are included in full on the website France et Angleterre: manuscrits médiévaux entre 700 et 1200 where you can view manuscripts side by side, and find manuscripts by date, language, place of origin, author or subject.

Articles

A decorated initial containing a representation of St Denis alongside a demon, from a 12th-century Passionale.

Saints in medieval manuscripts

The veneration of saints was an integral part of medieval culture. Tuija Ainonen examines a collection of manuscripts that contain saints’ lives and portraits.

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An illustration from an Anglo-Saxon manuscript of Prudentius' Psychomachia.

The classical past

Cillian O’Hogan offers an introduction to the range of classical works that shaped medieval thought on literature and scientific learning.

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An illustration of a kneeling monk holding up a manuscript, from a collection of penitential texts.

Manuscript production in England and France

Books were made in monasteries across England and France during the early medieval period. Calum Cockburn introduces some important sites of manuscript production that were active between 700 and 1200.

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A detail of an elaborate decorated initial and frame from a late 11th-century illuminated Psalter.

English manuscript illumination

Manuscripts reflect the creativity of artists and scribes, and the resources of their patrons. Kathleen Doyle and Eleanor Jackson outline the development of book art in early medieval England.

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An illustration of the rebirth of the phoenix, from an English bestiary.

Beastly tales from the medieval bestiary

Legends of animals helped readers in the Middle Ages to make sense of the living world. Elizabeth Morrison delves into the wondrous and delightful stories of the medieval bestiary.

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Themes

Art and illumination

Learn more about manuscript art from the illumination and decoration found in medieval books.

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A decorated initial containing a representation of a male figure with outstretched hands.

History and learning

Explore the spread and exchange of medieval culture and language before 1200.

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A detail of a diagram of the winds, from an early 12th-century miscellany.

Science and nature

From medical surgery to the stars of the constellations, what were the scientific works of the early Middle Ages and how were they transmitted?

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A decorated initial and frame from the Beatus page of the Eadui Psalter.

Making manuscripts

Learn more about book production in the Middle Ages and how to illuminate a manuscript today.

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Featured collection items

Eadui Psalter

1st half of the 11th century–mid 12th century

Canterbury or Anglo-Catalan Psalter

4th quarter of the 12th century

Portrait of St Dunstan as a bishop

4th quarter of the 12th century

Bestiary, with extracts from Gerald of Wales

Late 12th-century–early 13th century

St Denis Missal

Mid-11th century

Caligula Troper

2nd half of the 11th century

Gospel-book produced in Northern France

3rd quarter of the 9th century