Special Collections > Palaeography

UCC Library Portal to Palaeography and Medieval Manuscript Studies

1. Manuscripts and manuscripts in facsimile

1.1 Online resources

2. Manuscript Studies

2.1 Online resources

3. Palaeography

3.1 Online resources and tutorials

4. Hand-outs and leaflets

1. Manuscripts and manuscripts in facsimile


We are very privileged to hold original manuscripts. Please go to the Special Collections overview of our holdings.

UCC Library has an important collection of medieval manuscripts in facsimile, as well as critical editions. Most of them can be found in Special Collections. They are catalogued. You may also want to browse the Torna folio section, where most of this material is kept in the Reference Reading Room. Please ask staff to help you locate the facsimiles.

Using the UCC Library Catalogue, you can try, for instance, a keyword search for “manuscripts, medieval, facsimiles” or “manuscripts, Latin”. This will bring up many secondary sources as well.

Another possibility is to browse the subject areas by typing in “Manuscripts, Latin” or “Manuscripts, Medieval” into the Subject search field of the catalogue.

Most of the facsimiles and secondary material will be in our Torna collection or in the Transmissions and Transformations of the Ancient World collection (call numbers start with TR, TRF, TRP or TT). Many resources (most of the T, TR and TRF) are available on the shelves in the Special Collections Reference Reading Room, but some may have to be requested in advance as they are held in a Secure Storage Area (such as the TT).

Special Collections staff are always there to help. Please contact us in person in the Boole Library, at specialcollections@ucc.ie or Tel. +353-21-4902282. Please go to the Special Collections homepage for How to use us and Opening Hours.

1.1 Online resources

Irish Script On Screen (ISOS)
Excellent online collection of Irish manuscripts.

Bodleian Library: Western manuscripts to ca. 1500
The Bodleian collections of medieval manuscripts is one of the most important collections in the world. You can browse a great number of images, and descriptions of manuscripts:

British Library: Catalogue of illuminated manuscripts
The British Library has one of the richest collections of medieval manuscripts. Many manuscripts have some or all contents digitised:

And don’t forget to view famous manuscripts such as the Luttrell Psalter as a virtual book with Turning the Pages.

Digital Scriptorium
The Digital Scriptorium is an image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. It bridges the gap between a diverse user community and the limited resources of libraries by means of sample imaging and extensive rather than intensive cataloguing.

E-codices: Virtual manuscript library of Switzerland
A great selection of wonderful manuscripts. Some of them are in the insular (Irish) tradition, e.g. in the Libraries of Schaffhausen and St. Gallen.

The Burnet Psalter
Scholarly digitised edition of the fifteenth-century Psalter.

St Albans Psalter
Brilliant scholarly edition of a ca. twelfth-century Psalter

De Grey hours
The 'De Grey' Hours is an online digital facsimile of a book of hours held by the National Library of Wales (MS 15537C). The codex can be viewed folio by folio or as a gallery of illuminations only. Images are provided initially as thumbnails, which can then be enlarged for easier viewing. A brief introduction to the concept of a book of hours, and to this particular manuscript is provided with a list of illustrations and a bibliography.

The Aberdeen Bestiary
Fully digitised and critical edition of one of the most famous manuscripts of its genre.

2. Manuscript Studies

An excellent recent overview of the field for the beginner is Raymond Clemens’s and Timothy Graham’s Introduction to manuscript studies (Ithaca, 2007). This also includes an introduction to Palaeography and scripts.

A very informative and accessible introduction to the relevant terminology is also Michelle P. Brown’s Understanding illuminated manuscripts: a guide to technical terms (Malibu & London, 1994). Please note that this work is not yet available in the Boole Library. However, it is a paperback, readily available and cheap to purchase.

Another of Michelle P. Brown’s introductory works is equally useful, and available on Q+3: The British Library guide to writing and scripts (London, 1998)

A standard work focussing on illuminated manuscripts is Christopher de Hamel’s A history of illuminated manuscripts (London, 1994)

2.1 Online resources

Introduction to Manuscript Studies by the University of Alberta
This page includes glossaries and extensive bibliography.

3. Palaeography

A list of works about Palaeography available in Special Collections and the Boole Library can be found here.

The standard work is still Bernhard Bischoff’s Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, translated by Daibhi O Croinin and David Ganz (Cambridge, 1990)

An excellent follow-up is Albert Derolez’s The palaeography of Gothic manuscript books: from the twelfth to the early sixteenth century (Cambridge, 2003)

A very readable and clear introduction especially for the novice is Michelle P. Brown’s A guide to western historical scripts: from antiquity to 1600 (Toronto, 1990), which also includes numerous images, as well as transcription conventions and exercises.

Introductions to the Irish script available in the Boole Library include:
Francis John Burne’s A thousand years of Irish script: [catalogue of] an exhibition of Irish manuscripts in Oxford libraries (Oxford, 1979)

W.M. Lindsay’s Early Irish minuscule script (Hildesheim, 1971)
Timothy O’Neill’s The Irish hand: scribes and their manuscripts from the earliest times to the seventeenth century: with an exemplar of Irish; introduction by Francis John Byrne (Mountrath, 1984).

For abbreviations used in medieval writing, consult Adriano Cappelli’s comprehensive Lexicon abbreviaturarum : Dizionario di abbreviature latine ed italiane usate nelle carte e codici specialmente del Medio-Evo (Milano, 1973)
An online version of the German translation is available. You won’t need to be able to read German to profit from the abbreviations demystified here!

3.1 Online resources and tutorials

Medieval Writing: History, Heritage and Data Source
Introduction to medieval writing and the study of palaeography by Dianne Tillotson, a freelance medievalist.

National Archives
Two excellent online tutorials for Palaeography and Latin Palaeography are available from the UK’s National Archives pages, as well as online tutorials in beginner’s and advanced Latin. Highly recommended!

University of Leicester
Includes excellent list of contractions, with images and explanations.

Leathanaigh shamplacha ó lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge i Leabharlann na hOllscoile, Corcaigh
Irish palaeography 18th and 19th century, using original manuscripts held in UCC Library Special Collections.

4. Hand-outs and leaflets

These hand-outs and leaflets were put together by Special Collections to give you a short introduction to some of types of our material. They are downloadable PDF documents. Please let us know if you spot any errors, omissions, etc.

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Last updated: 12 March 2015

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