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Manuscripts of Middle English literature go online

Key manuscripts of Middle English literature have been digitised and made available online by the University of Manchester. They include works such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and John Lydgate‘s Troy Book and Fall of Princes.

Thirty-three manuscripts, dating between the 14th and 16th centuries, have been included in the Manchester Digital Collections database, which was launched earlier this year. They were digitised as part of a project called In the Bigynnyng.

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Folio from The Canterbury Tales – English MS 63, f.1v.

Among the other manuscripts that are now available one can find several copies of the Brut, a chronicle of the medieval history of England, and numerous copies of the New Testament, translated into English by John Wycliffe the fourteenth-century radical and church reformer. Alongside these are other devotional texts meditating on the life of Christ and The Pricke of Conscience, a work traditionally attributed to the mystic Richard Rolle de Hampole.

More manuscripts are expected to be added to the collection, including a multi-language legal commonplace book and medical texts such as On Urines and a rare late 14th-century copy of the Forme of Cury (‘proper method of cookery’), a recipe book compiled by the master cook of Richard II.

Earlier Version of Wycliffe’s New Testament – English MS 81. fol.1r

“The Middle English manuscripts housed at The John Rylands Library are a resource of international importance; probably the most significant collection of such material to be found outside the British Library and the Bodleian Library,” says Anne Anderton, Special Collections Curator for the John Rylands Research Institute. “These texts offer us a literal snapshot into the life, culture and language of medieval Britain. Available now through the Manchester digital collections image viewer, the texts will undoubtedly facilitate new research opportunities for scholars, and make these cultural assets more generally accessible to our wider audiences.”

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Click here to visit Manchester Digital Collections 

Top Image: Image from John Lygate‘s Troy Book, showing the death of Patroclus at the hand of Hector. English MS 1 f.78v.

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