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Parker Library on the Web turns 10-years-old, announces improvements to medieval manuscripts database

By Gabrielle Karampelas

Parker Library on the Web has become one of the leading digital medieval manuscript sites since 2005, when an early prototype was first demonstrated. Now, ten years after the prototype, and six years after the release of the first production version, work has begun on Parker on the Web 2.0.

Parker on the Web

The most visible changes will involve an entirely restyled website, access optimized for mobile devices as well as fixed-location computing, and full compatibility with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). At the same time, important changes will be made to the business model, which will no longer require an institutional site license for comprehensive access when Parker 2.0 is launched in January 2018.


Parker 2.0 will meet the standards developed by IIIF for delivery of image resources online. The application program interfaces (APIs) of IIIF will make the content of Parker 2.0 compatible with content from partner institutions, such as e-codices, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, the national libraries of France, Norway and the United Kingdom, and a growing number of universities.

In addition to facilitating the comparative study of manuscripts, Parker 2.0 will also integrate with a growing suite of IIIF-compatible tools for annotation, transcription and image analysis.


The Parker Library of Corpus Christi College in Cambridge contains a famous collection of over 600 manuscripts, most of which were bequeathed to the College by Archbishop Matthew Parker. This includes many Old English texts, such as the earliest copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 890), unique copies of Old English poems and other texts, and King Alfred’s translation of Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care. The Parker Library also contains key Anglo-Norman and Middle English texts ranging from the Ancrene Wisse and the Brut Chronicle to one of the finest copies of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Other subjects represented in the collection are theology, music, medieval travelogues and maps, apocalypses, bestiaries, royal ceremonies, historical chronicles and Bibles. The Parker Library holds a magnificent collection of English illuminated manuscripts, such as the Bury and Dover Bibles (c. 1135 and c. 1150) and the Chronica maiora by Matthew Paris (c. 1230-50).

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided major funding to build and produce the current version of Parker on the Web. Since 2009, the site has provided scholars and students around the world with high-resolution images of every imageable page in the Parker Library’s collection of manuscripts, detailed descriptive metadata and related bibliographies. This content has been regularly improved in light of new scholarship and research with semi-annual updates curated by Parker Library staff.

“Parker on the Web required all custom development when it was originally produced—and with it, custom effort to maintain and enhance it,” said Tom Cramer, Associate Director for Digital Library Systems and Services at Stanford University Libraries, who oversees the technical team maintaining the site.

Cramer also indicated that upgrading the technical structure of Parker on the Web would greatly reduce the cost of site maintenance. “With Parker 2.0, we have a chance to move to common components and infrastructure, which will add new functionality and reduce the level of effort to keep it up to date.”


Although basic access to the site has always been free of charge, a comprehensive licensed access service was established for institutions and experts who wished to study the manuscripts with greater access. Revenue from the sale of these institutional site licenses has underwritten updates and site maintenance, and will fund the development cost for Parker 2.0.

“Special ad-hoc pathways have been necessary to enable IIIF-compatible access to Parker images during the life of Parker on the Web’s current versions,” explains John Haeger, Special Projects Director for the Stanford Libraries. “While these have provided adequate support for IIIF-based research projects at several institutions, Stanford and Corpus are pleased that Parker 2.0 will offer full support for IIIF APIs as an integral part of its design.”

The purchase of a onetime perpetual institutional site license with annual maintenance fee for Parker on the Web will be discontinued immediately. However, HARRASSOWITZ, the current distributor for Parker on the Web, will continue to manage subscriptions and prorated orders until 2018 when the current version of Parker on the Web is replaced.


From the outset, Parker on the Web was focused on comprehensive digitization of an entire and historically important collection, intact since it was given in 1574 to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, by Matthew Parker, a former Master of the College and Archbishop of Canterbury.

“Matthew Parker always intended his manuscript collections to be freely available and the outreach of Parker on the Web brings these precious and vulnerable treasures to a universal audience which would have been unimaginable in the sixteenth century,” said Christopher de Hamel, Donnelley Fellow Librarian at Corpus Christi College.

The upgrades scheduled for the 2.0 version of the site are intended to keep Parker on the Web a relevant resource and interactive workspace for the study of the collection’s manuscripts.

“Parker 2.0 helps us to fulfill the commitment Stanford and Corpus made in 2005 to assure a sustainable online future for the manuscript contents of the Parker Library, while simultaneously enabling essentially free and universal access,” remarked Michael A. Keller, Stanford’s University Librarian and co-originator of the Parker Library on the Web with de Hamel.


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