British Library

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British Library
British library london.jpg
British Library building at St Pancras from the piazza
CountryUnited Kingdom
Type National library
Established1 July 1973(48 years ago) (1 July 1973)
Architect Colin St John Wilson
Mary Jane Long
Location Euston Road
London, NW1
Coordinates 51°31′46″N0°07′37″W / 51.52944°N 0.12694°W / 51.52944; -0.12694 Coordinates: 51°31′46″N0°07′37″W / 51.52944°N 0.12694°W / 51.52944; -0.12694
Branches1 (Boston Spa, West Yorkshire)
Items collectedBooks, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and manuscripts
Size170–200 million+ [1] [2] [3] [4] items

13,950,000 books [5]
824,101 serial titles
351,116 manuscripts (single and volumes)
8,266,276 philatelic items
4,347,505 cartographic items
1,607,885 music scores

6,000,000 sound recordings


Legal deposit Yes, provided in law by:
Access and use
Access requirementsOpen to anyone with a need to use the collections and services
Other information
Budget£142 million [5]
Director Roly Keating (chief executive, since 12 September 2012)
Open street map central london.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Central London
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameThe British Library, piazza, boundary wall and railings to Ossulston Street, Euston Road and Midland Road
Designated31 July 2015 (2015-07-31)
Reference no.1426345 [6]
British Library highlights film, 2014.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom [7] and is one of the largest libraries in the world. It is estimated to contain between 170 and 200 million [8] [2] [3] [4] items from many countries. As a legal deposit library, the British Library receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK. The Library is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The British Library is a major research library, with items in many languages [9] and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings. The Library's collections include around 14 million books, [10] along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and items dating as far back as 2000 BC. The library maintains a programme for content acquisition and adds some three million items each year occupying 9.6 kilometres (6 mi) of new shelf space. [11]

Prior to 1973, the Library was part of the British Museum. The Library is now located in a building purpose-built on the disused site of Midland Railway's Somers Town Goods Yard and Potato Market, [12] on the north side of Euston Road in Somers Town, London (between Euston railway station and St Pancras railway station), and has an additional storage building and reading room near Boston Spa, near Wetherby in West Yorkshire. The St Pancras building was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 25 June 1998, and is classified as a Grade I listed building "of exceptional interest" for its architecture and history. [13]

Early foundations

The British Library was created on 1 July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act 1972. [14] Prior to this, the national library was part of the British Museum, which provided the bulk of the holdings of the new library, alongside smaller organisations which were folded in (such as the National Central Library, [15] the National Lending Library for Science and Technology and the British National Bibliography). [14] In 1974 functions previously exercised by the Office for Scientific and Technical Information were taken over; in 1982 the India Office Library and Records and the HMSO Binderies became British Library responsibilities. [16] In 1983, the Library absorbed the National Sound Archive, which holds many sound and video recordings, with over a million discs and thousands of tapes. [17]

The core of the Library's historical collections is based on a series of donations and acquisitions from the 18th century, known as the "foundation collections". [18] These include the books and manuscripts of Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, Robert Harley and the King's Library of King George III, [19] as well as the Old Royal Library donated by King George II.

The British Library at Boston Spa (on Thorp Arch Trading Estate), West Yorkshire British Library.jpg
The British Library at Boston Spa (on Thorp Arch Trading Estate), West Yorkshire

For many years its collections were dispersed in various buildings around central London, in places such as Bloomsbury (within the British Museum), Chancery Lane, Bayswater, and Holborn, with an interlibrary lending centre at Boston Spa, 2.5 miles (4 km) east of Wetherby in West Yorkshire (situated on Thorp Arch Trading Estate), and the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London. [14]

Initial plans for the British Library required demolition of an integral part of Bloomsbury – a seven-acre swathe of streets immediately in front of the Museum, so that the Library could be situated directly opposite. After a long and hard-fought campaign led by Dr George Wagner, this decision was overturned and the library was instead constructed by John Laing plc [20] on a site at Euston Road next to St Pancras railway station. [21]

Following the closure of the Round Reading Room on 25 October 1997 the library stock began to be moved into the St Pancras building. Before the end of that year the first of eleven new reading rooms had opened and the moving of stock was continuing. [22] From 1997 to 2009 the main collection was housed in this single new building and the collection of British and overseas newspapers was housed at Colindale. In July 2008 the Library announced that it would be moving low-use items to a new storage facility in Boston Spa in Yorkshire and that it planned to close the newspaper library at Colindale, ahead of a later move to a similar facility on the same site. [23] From January 2009 to April 2012 over 200 km of material was moved to the Additional Storage Building and is now delivered to British Library Reading Rooms in London on request by a daily shuttle service. [24] Construction work on the Additional Storage Building was completed in 2013 and the newspaper library at Colindale closed on 8 November 2013. The collection has now been split between the St Pancras and Boston Spa sites. [25] The British Library Document Supply Service (BLDSS) and the Library's Document Supply Collection is based on the same site in Boston Spa. Collections housed in Yorkshire, comprising low-use material and the newspaper and Document Supply collections, make up around 70% of the total material the library holds. [26] The Library previously had a book storage depot in Woolwich, south-east London, which is no longer in use.

The new library was designed specially for the purpose by the architect Colin St John Wilson [14] in collaboration with his wife MJ Long, who came up with the plan that was subsequently developed and built. [27] Facing Euston Road is a large piazza that includes pieces of public art, such as large sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi (a bronze statue based on William Blake's study of Isaac Newton) and Antony Gormley. It is the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century. [28] [29]

The British Library with St Pancras railway station behind it British Library + St Pancras 7527-31hug.jpg
The British Library with St Pancras railway station behind it

In the middle of the building is a six-storey glass tower inspired by a similar structure in the Beinecke Library, containing the King's Library with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820. [30] In December 2009 a new storage building at Boston Spa was opened by Rosie Winterton. The new facility, costing £26 million, has a capacity for seven million items, stored in more than 140,000 bar-coded containers and which are retrieved by robots [31] from the 162.7 miles of temperature and humidity-controlled storage space. [32]

On Friday, 5 April 2013, the Library announced that it would begin saving all sites with the suffix .uk in a bid to preserve the nation's "digital memory" (which as of then amounted to about 4.8 million sites containing 1 billion web pages). The Library would make all the material publicly available to users by the end of 2013, and would ensure that, through technological advancements, all the material is preserved for future generations, despite the fluidity of the Internet. [33]

The building was Grade I listed on 1 August 2015. [13] It has plans to open a second location in Leeds, [34] potentially located in the Grade 1 listed Temple Works. [35]

Interior of the British Library, with the smoked glass wall of the King's Library in the background. BritishLibraryInterior02.jpg
Interior of the British Library, with the smoked glass wall of the King's Library in the background.

In England, legal deposit can be traced back to at least 1610. [36] The Copyright Act 1911 established the principle of the legal deposit, ensuring that the British Library and five other libraries in Great Britain and Ireland are entitled to receive a free copy of every item published or distributed in Britain. The other five libraries are: the Bodleian Library at Oxford; the University Library at Cambridge; Trinity College Library in Dublin; and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales. The British Library is the only one that must automatically receive a copy of every item published in Britain; the others are entitled to these items, but must specifically request them from the publisher after learning that they have been or are about to be published, a task done centrally by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries.

Further, under the terms of Irish copyright law (most recently the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000), the British Library is entitled to automatically receive a free copy of every book published in Ireland, alongside the National Library of Ireland, Trinity College Library in Dublin, the library of the University of Limerick, the library of Dublin City University and the libraries of the four constituent universities of the National University of Ireland. The Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales are also entitled to copies of material published in Ireland, but again must formally make requests.

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 extended United Kingdom legal deposit requirements to electronic documents, such as CD-ROMs and selected websites. [37]

The Library also holds the Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections (APAC) which include the India Office Records and materials in the languages of Asia and of north and north-east Africa. [38]

Using the library's reading rooms

The mechanical book handling system (MBHS ) used to deliver requested books from stores to reading rooms. Mechanical book handling system, British Library.jpg
The mechanical book handling system (MBHS ) used to deliver requested books from stores to reading rooms.
Bronze sculpture. Bill Woodrow's 'Sitting on History' was purchased for the British Library by Carl Djerassi and Diane Middlebrook in 1997.
Sitting on History, with its ball and chain, refers to the book as the captor of information which we cannot escape

The bust visible top left is Colin St. John Wilson RA by Celia Scott, 1998 a gift from the American Trust for the British Library. Sir Colin designed the British Library building Sitting on History (1995) by Bill Woodrow, British Library, London, UK - 20061031.jpg
Bronze sculpture. Bill Woodrow's 'Sitting on History' was purchased for the British Library by Carl Djerassi and Diane Middlebrook in 1997.
Sitting on History, with its ball and chain, refers to the book as the captor of information which we cannot escape

The bust visible top left is Colin St. John Wilson RA by Celia Scott, 1998 a gift from the American Trust for the British Library. Sir Colin designed the British Library building

The Library is open to everyone who has a genuine need to use its collections. Anyone with a permanent address who wishes to carry out research can apply for a Reader Pass; they are required to provide proof of signature and address. [40]

Historically, only those wishing to use specialised material unavailable in other public or academic libraries would be given a Reader Pass. The Library has been criticised for admitting numbers of undergraduate students, who have access to their own university libraries, to the reading rooms. The Library replied that it has always admitted undergraduates as long as they have a legitimate personal, work-related or academic research purpose. [41]

The majority of catalogue entries can be found on Explore the British Library, the Library's main catalogue, which is based on Primo. [42] Other collections have their own catalogues, such as western manuscripts. The large reading rooms offer hundreds of seats which are often filled with researchers, especially during the Easter and summer holidays.

British Library Reader Pass holders are also able to view the Document Supply Collection in the Reading Room at the Library's site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire as well as the hard-copy newspaper collection from 29 September 2014. Now that access is available to legal deposit collection material, it is necessary for visitors to register as a Reader to use the Boston Spa Reading Room. [43]

Online, electronic and digital resources

Material available online

The British Library makes a number of images of items within its collections available online. Its Online Gallery gives access to 30,000 images from various medieval books, together with a handful of exhibition-style items in a proprietary format, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. This includes the facility to "turn the virtual pages" of a few documents, such as Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks. [44] Catalogue entries for many of the illuminated manuscript collections are available online, with selected images of pages or miniatures from a growing number of them, [45] and there is a database of significant bookbindings. [46] British Library Sounds provides free online access to over 60,000 sound recordings.

The British Library's commercial secure electronic delivery service was started in 2003 at a cost of £6 million. This offers more than 100 million items (including 280,000 journal titles, 50 million patents, 5 million reports, 476,000 US dissertations and 433,000 conference proceedings) for researchers and library patrons worldwide which were previously unavailable outside the Library because of copyright restrictions. In line with a government directive that the British Library must cover a percentage of its operating costs, a fee is charged to the user. However, this service is no longer profitable and has led to a series of restructures to try to prevent further losses. [47] When Google Books started, the British Library signed an agreement with Microsoft to digitise a number of books from the British Library for its Live Search Books project. [48] This material was only available to readers in the US, and closed in May 2008. [49] The scanned books are currently available via the British Library catalogue or Amazon. [50]

In October 2010 the British Library launched its Management and business studies portal. This website is designed to allow digital access to management research reports, consulting reports, working papers and articles. [51]

In November 2011, four million newspaper pages from the 18th and 19th centuries were made available online. The project will scan up to 40 million pages over the next 10 years. The archive is free to search, but there is a charge for accessing the pages themselves. [52]

Electronic collections

Explore the British Library is the latest[ when? ] iteration of the online catalogue. It contains nearly 57 million records and may be used to search, view and order items from the collections or search the contents of the Library's website. The Library's electronic collections include over 40,000 ejournals, 800 databases and other electronic resources. [53] A number of these are available for remote access to registered St Pancras Reader Pass holders.

PhD theses are available via the E-Theses Online Service (EThOS). [54]

Digital Library System

In 2012, the UK legal deposit libraries signed a memorandum of understanding to create a shared technical infrastructure implementing the Digital Library System developed by the British Library. [55] The DLS was in anticipation of the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013, an extension of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 to include non-print electronic publications from 6 April 2013. [56] Four storage nodes, located in London, Boston Spa, Aberystwyth, and Edinburgh, linked via a secure network in constant communication automatically replicate, self-check, and repair data. [57] A complete crawl of every .uk domain (and other TLDs with UK based server GeoIP) has been added annually to the DLS since 2013, which also contains all of the Internet Archive's 1996–2013 .uk collection. The policy and system is based on that of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which has crawled (via IA until 2010) the .fr domain annually (62 TBs in 2015) since 2006.


Bronze sculpture. Inscription reads:
'NEWTON' after William Blake by Eduardo Paolozzi 1995. Grant aided by The Foundation for Sport & the Arts. Funded by subscriptions from the football pools, Vernons, Littlewoods, Zetters Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi 2003-03-10.jpg
Bronze sculpture. Inscription reads:
'NEWTON' after William Blake by Eduardo Paolozzi 1995. Grant aided by The Foundation for Sport & the Arts. Funded by subscriptions from the football pools, Vernons, Littlewoods, Zetters

A number of books and manuscripts are on display to the public in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which is open seven days a week at no charge. Some manuscripts in the exhibition include Beowulf , the Lindisfarne Gospels and St Cuthbert Gospel, a Gutenberg Bible, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales , Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (King Arthur), Captain Cook's journal, Jane Austen's History of England , Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre , Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground , Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories , Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby , Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a room devoted solely to Magna Carta , as well as several Qur'ans and Asian items. [58]

In addition to the permanent exhibition, there are frequent thematic exhibitions which have covered maps, [59] sacred texts, [60] history of the English language, [61] and law, including a celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. [62]

Services and departments

Business and IP Centre

In May 2005, the British Library received a grant of £1 million from the London Development Agency to change two of its reading rooms into the Business & IP Centre. The centre was opened in March 2006. [63] It holds arguably the most comprehensive collection of business and intellectual property (IP) material in the United Kingdom and is the official library of the UK Intellectual Property Office.

The collection is divided up into four main information areas: market research, company information, trade directories, and journals. It is free of charge in hard copy and online via approximately 30 subscription databases. Registered readers can access the collection and the databases. [64]

There are over 50 million patent specifications from 40 countries in a collection dating back to 1855. The collection also includes official gazettes on patents, trade marks and Registered Design; law reports and other material on litigation; and information on copyright. This is available in hard copy and via online databases. [65]

Staff are trained to guide small and medium enterprises (SME) and entrepreneurs to use the full range of resources. [65]

In 2018, a Human Lending Library service was established in the Business & IP Centre, allowing social entrepreneurs to receive an hour's mentoring from a high-profile business professional. [66] This service is run in partnership with Expert Impact.

Stephen Fear was the British Library's Entrepreneur in Residence and Ambassador from 2012 to 2016. [67]

Document Supply Service

As part of its establishment in 1973, the British Library absorbed the National Lending Library for Science and Technology (NLL), based near Boston Spa in Yorkshire, which had been established in 1961. Before this, the site had housed a World War II Royal Ordnance Factory, ROF Thorp Arch, which closed in 1957. When the NLL became part of the British Library in 1973 it changed its name to the British Library Lending Division, in 1985 it was renamed as the British Library Document Supply Centre and is now known as the British Library Document Supply Service, often abbreviated as BLDSS. [68]

BLDSS now holds 87.5 million items, including 296,000 international journal titles, 400,000 conference proceedings, 3 million monographs, 5 million official publications, and 500,000 UK and North American theses and dissertations. 12.5 million articles in the Document Supply Collection are held electronically and can be downloaded immediately. [69]

The collection supports research and development in UK, overseas and international industry, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. BLDSS also provides material to Higher Education institutions, students and staff and members of the public, who can order items through their Public Library or through the Library's BL Document Supply Service (BLDSS). [70] The Document Supply Service also offers Find it For Me and Get it For Me services which assist researchers in accessing hard-to-find material.

In April 2013, BLDSS launched its new online ordering and tracking system, which enables customers to search available items, view detailed availability, pricing and delivery time information, place and track orders, and manage account preferences online. [71]

Sound archive

Tape players used in the British Library Sound Archives, 2009 photo BL Sound Archive tapes-2.jpg
Tape players used in the British Library Sound Archives, 2009 photo

The British Library Sound Archive holds more than a million discs and 185,000 tapes. [72] The collections come from all over the world and cover the entire range of recorded sound, from music, drama and literature to oral history and wildlife sounds, stretching back over more than 100 years. The Sound Archive's online catalogue is updated daily.

It is possible to listen to recordings from the collection in selected Reading Rooms in the Library through their SoundServer [73] and Listening and Viewing Service, which is based in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room. [74]

In 2006, the Library launched a new online resource, British Library Sounds, which makes 50,000 of the Sound Archive's recordings available online. [75] [76]

Moving image services

Launched in October 2012, the British Library's moving image services provide access to nearly a million sound and moving image items onsite, supported by data for over 20 million sound and moving image recordings. [77] The three services, which for copyright reasons can only be accessed from terminals within the Reading Rooms at St Pancras or Boston Spa, are:

Periodicals and philatelic collections


Former British Library Newspapers building, Colindale British Library Newspapers.JPG
Former British Library Newspapers building, Colindale

The Library holds an almost complete collection of British and Irish newspapers since 1840. This is partly because of the legal deposit legislation of 1869, which required newspapers to supply a copy of each edition of a newspaper to the library. London editions of national daily and Sunday newspapers are complete back to 1801. In total, the collection consists of 660,000 bound volumes and 370,000 reels of microfilm containing tens of millions of newspapers with 52,000 titles on 45 km (28 mi) of shelves. From earlier dates, the collections include the Thomason Tracts, comprising 7,200 seventeenth-century newspapers,[ citation needed ] and the Burney Collection, featuring nearly 1 million pages of newspapers from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. [78] The section also holds extensive collections of non-British newspapers, in numerous languages.

The Newspapers section was based in Colindale in North London until 2013, when the buildings, which were considered to provide inadequate storage conditions and to be beyond improvement, were closed and sold for redevelopment. [79] [80] The physical holdings are now divided between the sites at St Pancras (some high-use periodicals, and rare items such as the Thomason Tracts and Burney collections) and Boston Spa (the bulk of the collections, stored in a new purpose-built facility). [80]

A significant and growing proportion of the collection is now made available to readers as surrogate facsimiles, either on microfilm, or, more recently, in digitised form. In 2010 a ten-year programme of digitisation of the newspaper archives with commercial partner DC Thomson subsidiary Brightsolid began, [81] [82] and the British Newspaper Archive was launched in November 2011. [83] A dedicated newspaper reading room opened at St Pancras in April 2014, including facilities for consulting microfilmed and digital materials, and, where no surrogate exists, hard-copy material retrieved from Boston Spa. [80] [84]

Philatelic collections

Philatelic collections Philatelic collections 1110902 1110905.jpg
Philatelic collections
The entrance gate and its shadow (designed by David Kindersley and his wife Lida Lopes Cardozo) British Library Gate Shadow.jpg
The entrance gate and its shadow (designed by David Kindersley and his wife Lida Lopes Cardozo)

The British Library Philatelic Collections are held at St Pancras. The collections were established in 1891 with the donation of the Tapling collection; [85] they steadily developed and now comprise over 25 major collections and a number of smaller ones, encompassing a wide range of disciplines. The collections include postage and revenue stamps, postal stationery, essays, proofs, covers and entries, "cinderella stamp" material, specimen issues, airmails, some postal history materials, official and private posts, etc., for almost all countries and periods. [86]

An extensive display of material from the collections is on exhibit, which may be the best permanent display of diverse classic stamps and philatelic material in the world. Approximately 80,000 items on 6,000 sheets may be viewed in 1,000 display frames; 2,400 sheets are from the Tapling Collection. All other material, which covers the whole world, is available to students and researchers. [86] As well as these collections, the library actively acquires literature on the subject. This makes the British Library one of the world's prime philatelic research centres. The Head Curator of the Philatelic Collections is Paul Skinner.

Other projects

The British Library sponsors or co-sponsors many projects of national and international significance. These include:

Highlights of the collections

Highlights, some of which were selected by the British Library, include: [87]

1300 BC – 500 AD

500 – 800 AD

800 – 1000 AD

1000 – 1200 AD

1200 - 1300 AD

1300 – 1400 AD

1400 – 1500 AD

1500 – 1700 AD

1700 AD – present

Maps, music, manuscripts and literature

Collections of manuscripts

Foundation collections

The three foundation collections are those which were brought together to form the initial manuscript holdings of the British Museum in 1753: [142]

Other named collections

Other "named" collections of manuscripts include (but are not limited to) the following:

Other collections, not necessarily manuscripts:

Additional manuscripts

The Additional Manuscripts series covers manuscripts that are not part of the named collections, and contains all other manuscripts donated, purchased or bequeathed to the Library since 1756. The numbering begins at 4101, as the series was initially regarded as a continuation of the collection of Sloane manuscripts, which are numbered 1 to 4100. [143]

Chief executives and other employees

British Library employees undertake a wide variety of roles including curatorial, business and technology. Curatorial roles include or have included librarians, curators, digital preservationists, archivists and keepers. [144] In 2001 the senior management team was established and consisted of Lynne Brindley (chief executive), Ian Millar (director of finance and corporate resources), Natalie Ceeney (director of operations and services), Jill Finney (director of strategic marketing and communications) and Clive Field (director of scholarship and collections). This was so the problems of a complex structure, a mega hybrid library, global brand and investment in digital preservation could be managed better [145]

Chief Executives
Chief Librarians

See also

Related Research Articles

Manuscript Document written by hand

A manuscript was, traditionally, any document written by hand – or, once practical typewriters became available, typewritten – as opposed to mechanically printed or reproduced in some indirect or automated way. More recently, the term has come to be understood to further include any written, typed, or word-processed copy of an author's work, as distinguished from its rendition as a printed version of the same. Before the arrival of printing, all documents and books were manuscripts. Manuscripts are not defined by their contents, which may combine writing with mathematical calculations, maps, music notation, explanatory figures or illustrations.

Illuminated manuscript Manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration

An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with such decoration as initials, borders (marginalia), and miniature illustrations. In the strictest definition, the term refers only to manuscripts decorated with either gold or silver; but in both common usage and modern scholarship, the term refers to any decorated or illustrated manuscript from Western traditions. Comparable Far Eastern and Mesoamerican works are described as painted. Islamic manuscripts may be referred to as illuminated, illustrated, or painted, though using essentially the same techniques as Western works.

<i>Codex Argenteus</i> 6th-century Gothic bible manuscript

The Codex Argenteus is a 6th-century illuminated manuscript, originally containing part of the 4th-century translation of the Christian Bible into the Gothic language. Traditionally ascribed to the Arian bishop Wulfila, it is now established that the Gothic translation was performed by several scholars, possibly under Wulfila's supervision. Of the original 336 folios, 188—including the Speyer fragment discovered in 1970—have been preserved, containing the translation of the greater part of the four canonical gospels. A part of it is on permanent display at the Carolina Rediviva building in Uppsala, Sweden, under the name "Silverbibeln".

St Cuthbert Gospel Early 8th-century Anglo-Saxon pocket gospel book

The St Cuthbert Gospel, also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel or the St Cuthbert Gospel of St John, is an early 8th-century pocket gospel book, written in Latin. Its finely decorated leather binding is the earliest known Western bookbinding to survive, and both the 94 vellum folios and the binding are in outstanding condition for a book of this age. With a page size of only 138 by 92 millimetres, the St Cuthbert Gospel is one of the smallest surviving Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. The essentially undecorated text is the Gospel of John in Latin, written in a script that has been regarded as a model of elegant simplicity.

Book of Cerne

The Book of Cerne is an early ninth-century Insular or Anglo-Saxon Latin personal prayer book with Old English components. It belongs to a group of four such early prayer books, the others being the Royal Prayerbook, the Harleian prayerbook, and the Book of Nunnaminster. It is now commonly believed to have been produced sometime between ca. 820 and 840 AD in the Southumbrian/Mercian region of England. The original book contains a collection of several different texts, including New Testament Gospel excerpts, a selection of prayers and hymns with a version of the Lorica of Laidcenn, an abbreviated or Breviate Psalter, and a text of the Harrowing of Hell liturgical drama, which were combined together to provide a source used for private devotion and contemplation. Based on stylistic and palaeographical features, the Book of Cerne has been included within the Canterbury or Tiberius group of manuscripts that were manufactured in southern England in the 8th and 9th centuries AD associated with the Mercian hegemony in Anglo-Saxon England. This Anglo-Saxon manuscript is considered to be the most sophisticated and elaborate of this group. The Book of Cerne exhibits various Irish/Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Continental, and Mediterranean influences in its texts, ornamentation, and embellishment.

Psalter Volume containing the Book of Psalms

A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms, often with other devotional material bound in as well, such as a liturgical calendar and litany of the Saints. Until the emergence of the book of hours in the Late Middle Ages, psalters were the books most widely owned by wealthy lay persons. They were commonly used for learning to read. Many Psalters were richly illuminated, and they include some of the most spectacular surviving examples of medieval book art.

Western calligraphy

Western calligraphy is the art of writing and penmanship as practiced in the Western world, especially using the Latin alphabet.

Codex Amiatinus Oldest complete copy of the Vulgate version of the Bible

The Codex Amiatinus is the earliest surviving complete manuscript of the Latin Vulgate version of the Christian Bible. It was produced around 700 in the north-east of England, at the Benedictine monastery of Monkwearmouth–Jarrow in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, now South Tyneside and taken to Italy as a gift for Pope Gregory II in 716. It was one of three giant single-volume Bibles then made at Monkwearmouth–Jarrow, and is the earliest complete one-volume Latin Bible to survive, only the León palimpsest being older; and the oldest Bible where all the Books of the Bible present what would be their Vulgate texts.

Vespasian Psalter

The Vespasian Psalter is an Anglo-Saxon illuminated psalter decorated in a partly Insular style produced in the second or third quarter of the 8th century. It contains an interlinear gloss in Old English which is the oldest extant English translation of any portion of the Bible. It was produced in southern England, perhaps in St. Augustine's Abbey or Christ Church, Canterbury or Minster-in-Thanet, and is the earliest illuminated manuscript produced in "Southumbria" to survive.

Stockholm Codex Aureus Eighth century illuminated gospel book

The Stockholm Codex Aureus is a Gospel book written in the mid-eighth century in Southumbria, probably in Canterbury, whose decoration combines Insular and Italian elements. Southumbria produced a number of important illuminated manuscripts during the eighth and early ninth centuries, including the Vespasian Psalter, the Stockholm Codex Aureus, three Mercian prayer books, the Tiberius Bede and the British Library's Royal Bible.

Breton Gospel Book (British Library, MS Egerton 609)

British Library, Egerton MS 609 is a Breton Gospel Book from the late or third quarter of the ninth century. It was created in France, though the exact location is unknown. The large decorative letters which form the beginning of each Gospel are similar to the letters found in Carolingian manuscripts, but the decoration of these letters is closer to that found in insular manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels. However, the decoration in the Breton Gospel Book is simpler and more geometric in form than that found in the Insular manuscripts. The manuscript contains the Latin text of St Jerome's letter to Pope Damasus, St. Jerome's commentary on Matthew, and the four Gospels, along with prefatory material and canon tables. This manuscript is part of the Egerton Collection in the British Library.

Parker Library, Corpus Christi College

The Parker Library is the rare books and manuscripts library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It is known throughout the world due to its invaluable collection of over 600 manuscripts, particularly medieval texts, the majority of which were bequeathed to the College by Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker, a former Master of Corpus Christi College.

Biblical manuscript A handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible

A biblical manuscript is any handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible. Biblical manuscripts vary in size from tiny scrolls containing individual verses of the Jewish scriptures to huge polyglot codices containing both the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and the New Testament, as well as extracanonical works.

William de Brailes

William de Brailes was an English Early Gothic manuscript illuminator, presumably born in Brailes, Warwickshire. He signed two manuscripts, and apparently worked in Oxford, where he is documented from 1238 to 1252, owning property in Catte Street near the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, roughly on the site now occupied by the chapel of All Souls College, where various members of the book-trade lived. He was married, to Celena, but evidently also held minor orders, as at least three self-portraits show him with a clerical tonsure. This was not unusual: by this date, and with the exception of the St. Albans monk Matthew Paris, the only other English illuminator of the period about whom we have significant personal information, most English illumination seems to have been done in commercial workshops run by laymen.

Hans Peter Kraus, also known as H. P. Kraus or HPK, was an Austrian-born book dealer described as "without doubt the most successful and dominant rare book dealer in the world in the second half of the 20th century" and in a league with other rare book dealers such as Bernard Quaritch, Guillaume de Bure and A.S.W. Rosenbach. Kraus specialized in medieval illuminated manuscripts, incunables, and rare books of the 16th and 17th centuries, but would purchase and sell almost any book that came his way that was rare, valuable and important. He prided himself in being "the only bookseller in have owned a Gutenberg Bible and the Psalters of 1457 and 1459 simultaneously," stressing that "'own' here is the correct word, as they were bought not for a client's account but for stock."

Ramsey Psalter

The Psalter of Oswald also called the Ramsey Psalter is an Anglo-Saxon illuminated psalter of the last quarter of the tenth century. Its script and decoration suggest that it was made at Winchester, but certain liturgical features have suggested that it was intended for use at the Benedictine monastery of Ramsey Abbey, or for the personal use of Ramsey's founder St Oswald.

Ravenelle Painter

The Ravenelle Painter, also known as the Master of the Book of Hours of Johannete Ravenelle, the Ravenelle Master or the First Master of the Bible Historiale of Jean de Berry, was a French manuscript illuminator active between 1390 and 1405. Little is known about him. In a 2002 dissertation, Eva Lindqvist Sandgren used stylistic comparison to identify this artist as the illuminator of a book of hours now in the Uppsala University Library, the Ravenelle Hours. This identification is now widely accepted. An earlier notname for the same artist derives from a manuscript of the Bible Historiale, now held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, in which he painted several miniatures. The manuscript was once owned by John, Duke of Berry, and with most books containing other work ascribed to the artist seems to have been produced in Paris. This would indicate that the artist lived and worked there, producing large secular works as well as religious treatises written in vernacular French.

Royal manuscripts, British Library

The Royal manuscripts are one of the "closed collections" of the British Library, consisting of some 2,000 manuscripts collected by the sovereigns of England in the "Old Royal Library" and given to the British Museum by George II in 1757. They are still catalogued with call numbers using the prefix "Royal" in the style "Royal MS 2. B. V". As a collection, the Royal manuscripts date back to Edward IV, though many earlier manuscripts were added to the collection before it was donated. Though the collection was therefore formed entirely after the invention of printing, luxury illuminated manuscripts continued to be commissioned by royalty in England as elsewhere until well into the 16th century. The collection was expanded under Henry VIII by confiscations in the Dissolution of the Monasteries and after the falls of Henry's ministers Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. Many older manuscripts were presented to monarchs as gifts; perhaps the most important manuscript in the collection, the Codex Alexandrinus, was presented to Charles I in recognition of the diplomatic efforts of his father James I to help the Eastern Orthodox churches under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The date and means of entry into the collection can only be guessed at in many if not most cases. Now the collection is closed in the sense that no new items have been added to it since it was donated to the nation.

Byzantine illuminated manuscripts

Byzantine illuminated manuscripts were produced across the Byzantine Empire, some in monasteries but others in imperial or commercial workshops. Religious images or icons were made in Byzantine art in many different media: mosaics, paintings, small statues and illuminated manuscripts. Monasteries produced many of the illuminated manuscripts devoted to religious works using the illustrations to highlight specific parts of text, a saints' martyrdom for example, while others were used for devotional purposes similar to icons. These religious manuscripts were most commissioned by patrons and were used for private worship but also gifted to churches to be used in services.


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Further reading