British Literary Manuscripts Online:Medieval and Renaissance

MS Beowulf and Judith Vitellius, A. XV. British Library. Codex membran. in 4to. foliis constans 206. 1. Notulae de numero parochiarum, villarum, feodorumque militum in Anglia; et de expugnatione Caleti per.... 12th century AD-17th century AD. MS Beowulf and Judith Vitellius, A. XV.. British Library. British Literary Manuscripts Online.
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Explore five centuries of British history and culture through the lives and works of Medieval and Renaissance authors.

British Literary Manuscripts Online, Medieval and Renaissance presents facsimile images of a range of literary manuscripts — including letters, poems, stories, plays, chronicles, religious writings, and other materials — from roughly 1120 to 1660.

Consisting primarily of works in Middle and Early Modern English, British Literary Manuscripts Online: Medieval and Renaissance is an essential resource for any student of those historical eras. Scholars can have online access to the original manuscripts of seminal literary, religious, and philosophical texts and trace the prevailing social and cultural attitudes of the times through important historical documents like the letters of Alcuin and Lanfranc and the chronicles of Waverly, Glastonbury, St Martin’s, and Lichfield.

Among many other documents, this collection includes rare and previously inaccessible works from the British Library such as:

  • Beowulf (Cotton Vitellius A. xv)
  • Judith (Cotton Vitellius A. xv)
  • Sermo Lupi ad Anglos (The Sermon of the Wolf) by Wulfstan II, Archbishop of York (Cotton Nero A. i)
  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Abingdon Chronicle II (Cotton MS. Tiberius B i.)
  • The Book of Margery Kempe (Additional MS 61823)
  • York Corpus Christi Plays (York Mystery Plays) (Additional MS 25290)
These literary manuscripts are sourced from Series III: Medieval Age: c.1150-1500 and Medieval Literary and Historical Manuscripts in the Cotton Collection at the British Library. This archive also contains all manuscripts not dated 1660 or later from the following Harvester Microfilm collections:
  • British Literary Manuscripts from the British Library, London. Series I: English Renaissance: Literature from the Tudor Period to the Restoration, c.1500-1700
  • British Literary Manuscripts from the National Library of Scotland. Part 1: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, c.1300-1700
  • Forster and Dyce Collections from the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Part 1: 16th & 17th Century Manuscripts
  • British Literary Manuscripts from the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C. 1500-1700
A groundbreaking collection which offers students, instructors, and general readers digital access to unique documents once available only to literary scholars. Highlights include:
  • Geoffrey Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale
  • William Shakespeare's The Life of Timon of Athens
  • William Langland's Visio Willelmi de Petro Ploughman
  • Marie de France's Le Lai de Launval
  • One of the St. Albans manuscripts

Major works of Medieval English literature include:

  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Abingdon Chronicle II
  • Beowulf and Judith
  • The Book of Margery Kempe
  • Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • The Pearl
  • The Vision of Piers the Plowman
Key religious and philosophical texts include:
  • The Sermon of the Wolf by Archbishop Wulfstan
  • Coventry Mystery Plays and York Mystery Plays
  • The Prick of Conscience
  • The writings of Boethius, John Wycliffe, Julian of Norwich, and St Bede the Venerable

Renaissance period:

  • Plays by Shakespeare, his predecessors, and his contemporaries
  • Poetry by the great Renaissance poets, including Thomas Campion, John Dryden, John Donne, Ben Jonson, Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and Thomas Wyatt
  • Cultural resources such as odes and songs, medical treatises, and commonplace books

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Additional Details

Subjects Covered
  • English Language and Literature Studies
  • Classics and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics
  • European Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Social Studies
  • Liberal Studies
  • Humanities/Humanistic Studies

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Advisory Board

British Literary Manuscripts Online has been designed with the generous assistance and advice of the following scholars and academic librarians:

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Reviews & Testimonials

“With this major project, important manuscripts from the US and Great Britain have been collected in one database for all levels of researchers, regardless of circumstance. This resource allows manuscript study to be integrated into the literature, humanities, and history curricula, promoting interdisciplinary study and research. Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.”

P. Mardeusz, Choice, May 2010

“The entire collection is easily browsed by author, and clever users may browse by title via an option provided on the Advanced Search form. Summing Up: Recommended.”

Choice, July, 2011

“This service is as convenient as it sounds and the results are excellent in terms of the quality of the images retrieved.”

Reference Reviews, Volume 24, 2010