One of the largest databases of medieval manuscripts has added 61 new items to its collection. They include manuscripts from the Franciscan order as well as fragments dating back to the eighth century.
The digitized manuscripts were added to e-codices: The Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland, which is run out of the University of Fribourg. The new additions bring their collection to over 2500 items.
Among the additions are three medieval manuscripts held at the Central Library of the Swiss town of Solothurn. They originally belonged to the Franciscans and included a German translation of their Rule.
Another interesting addition to the collection is four manuscripts from a library in Porrentruy, which is located in northwest Switzerland. They are not from the Middle Ages, but were made around the end of the 19th century, and are armourials depicting coats of arms of the local nobility.
Many of the new additions come from the Abbey Library of Saint Gall, an important monastery in the Middle Ages. Some of these are collections of fragments of manuscripts from older works, including those dating back to the 8th century. Dr. William Duba, who coordinates e-codices for the Center for Manuscript Studies at the University of Fribourg, explains that for him “by far the most exciting part of the update is the publication of hundreds of fragments from the Ildefons von Arx fragment volumes 1397 and 1398a. Before we started work on these, most of them were known only by a one-line title applied to a whole folder. Thanks to the work of Chiara de Angelis, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cassino, Scientific Editor Brigitte Roux, St. Gallen librarian Philipp Lenz, and numerous others who helped in specific cases, we have identified and dated each of the fragments, and noting where they come from the same manuscripts.”
The project also has a sister site, Fragmentarium, which focuses on these manuscript fragments. That site’s collection is now over 5,000 items, but Duba explains that this is an area which will grow even further:
“We’re proud to have reached 5,000, but that number is a drop in bucket compared to the material still out there. Digitization constitutes the first step to preserving this material for research. Without digitization, fragments are at risk. Since most manuscript fragments are found in bindings of books, musical instruments, and in boxes in libraries, they exist only in reference to something else, from which they can be separated: without the fragment, the book will still have the same classmark, the box will have the same number. As the very first step to preserving this material, we need digitization.
“For fragments, however, digitization is not enough. We still need to make sense of this mass of material, and for that, we need motivated medievalists willing and able to dedicate their time to providing the initial identification of these fragments, and to draw the interest of their colleagues. I find this the most exciting part of Fragmentarium: getting together specialists from the spectrum of medieval and manuscript studies for the sake of increasing our knowledge of and access to our global written heritage.”
Top Image: Solothurn, Zentralbibliothek, Cod. S 540, f. 12r – Missale OFM http://www.e-codices.ch/en/zbs/S-0540/12r