Greek manuscripts

Imaging - photographer

The British Library’s Imaging Services team used its extensive preservation expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to photograph 350 rare Greek manuscripts from as far
back as the 11th century.

Published date:

It's possible for researchers anywhere in the world to study the manuscripts in greater detail than would ever be possible with the naked eye.

British Library Imaging Services has recently completed the third phase of the British Library’s Greek Manuscript Digitisation Project.  Running from April 2014 to February 2015, the project was funded by several different organisations including (among others) the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation, Sam Fogg, the Sylvia Iannou Foundation,
The Thriplow Charitable Trust and the Friends of the British Library. 

Andrea Clarke was the lead curator on the project and is delighted that some 900 manuscripts are now “fully digitised and we are delighted to be able to make this
important and rich collection freely available on our Digitised Manuscripts site”.

Imaging Services - Greek Manuscript   Imaging Services - Greek Manuscript

There were many highlights among the collection including the Howard Greek Lectionary
and the Codex Crippsianus.  One item that brought particular appeal was “The Divine Liturgies”, a manuscript written in 1600 at the monastery of the Virgin Demitrash, near Brusa.  The work contains intricate images of several Saints including Basil the Great and there is fine artwork throughout the piece.  The Divine Liturgies also has 17th century, crimson velvet binding, which for preservation purposes is kept separately to the manuscript. 

Andrea was impressed that British Library’s Imaging Services delivered “excellent
high-resolution, zoomable images” which allow “for researchers anywhere in the world
to consult the manuscripts and to study them in greater detail than would ever be possible
with the naked eye”.

Key points

  • From start to finish, the studio had under
    a year to plan the project, assess the material and produce around 122,500 high-quality images.
  • Manuscripts, dating back to the 11th century, have been digitised, requiring collaboration between photographers, curators and conservators.
  • The items digitised were in many formats, including scrolls and oversized manuscripts.

Case studies

…"We were delighted with the British Library service offering onsite photography at our convenience: it was efficient and enjoyable, and produced the most beautiful images." John Sunderland, Friends of Malmesbury Abbey…

Malmesbury and its Abbey, had one of the most important libraries in Europe in the Middle Ages, and the famous historian William was from Malmesbury. The Friends of Malmesbury Abbey commissioned the British Library to digitise four volumes of the bible, known as the Malmesbury Bible earlier this summer.

…This project makes a number of our most important globes available beyond the British Library’s Reading Rooms and exhibition galleries, to a wider audience and in a more imaginative way than ever before.…

Using 3D photography, the British Library’s rare and fragile collection of historical globes have been digitised and made available for the public to discover via augmented reality.

…"British Library Imaging Services are uniquely placed to supply quality digital images of back catalogue and rare material"…

British Library Imaging Services and Taylor & Francis have a long standing partnership which sees Imaging Services supply digitised copies of the Taylor and Francis back catalogue.

…British Library Imaging Services have backed up their reputation with a quality service to deliver scans and metadata…

British Library Imaging Services brought thousands of items from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s archives back to life and introduced them to new audiences