Medieval manuscripts

With about 1800 codices and over a thousand fragments Leiden’s collection of medieval manuscripts (up to ca. 1550) is the largest in the Netherlands.

Manuscripts by origin

Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarium, Leiden UB, ms. VLQ 9, f.46v-47r

Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarium, Leiden UB, ms. VLQ 9, f.46v-47r

Insofar as they can be localized, most manuscripts have been produced in the (medieval) Netherlands (its southern parts form today’s Belgium; ca. 520), followed by France (ca. 480), Italy (ca. 380) and the German countries (ca. 170). These numbers (and others below) are estimates; quite a few manuscripts can be localized or dated only roughly, consist of two of more separate production units or contain texts in more than one language.

Manuscripts by language

  • Latin manuscripts — In total ca. 1.140 items, with over a hundred dating from the ninth century. Among these Carolingian manuscripts are the Aratea (VLQ 79), the oldest manuscripts of Lucretius’ De rerum natura (VLF 30, VLQ 94) and of Cicero’s philosophical texts (VLF 84, VLF 86, BPL 118).
  • Greek manuscripts — In total ca. 330 codices (among which one of the earliest bible manuscripts on parchment: VGQ 8)
  • Dutch manuscripts — In total ca. 400 items (LTK: ca. 260).
  • Manuscripts in other languages — French ca. 60 items, German ca. 40 items.

Dated manuscripts

In total 190 dated manuscripts are included in CMD-NL: Manuscrits datés conservés dans les Pays-Bas. Catalogue paléographique des manuscrits en écriture latine portant des indications de date. Vol. 1. G.I. Lieftinck, Les manuscrits d’origine étrangère, 816-c.1550 (Amsterdam 1964); Vol. 2. J.P. Gumbert, Les manuscrits d’origine Néerlandaise (XIVe-XVIe siècles) et supplément au tome premier (Leiden 1988).

Illuminated manuscripts

In total ca. 480 illuminated manuscripts are included in the Byvanck-database (Royal Library, The Hague). This database (which will be published on the internet in the near future) describes all miniatures, historiated initials, drawings, marginal decoration and decorated initials of manuscripts produced in the medieval Netherlands (kept worldwide), including those kept in Dutch institutions but produced elsewhere.

Composite manuscripts

There are ca. 210 composite manuscripts, i.e. codices with a multiple genesis (consisting of two or more codicological units). On this subject see J.P. Gumbert, ‘Codicological Units. Towards a Terminology for the Stratigraphy of the Non-Homogeneous Codex’, in: Segno e Test 2 (2004).  

Fragment collections

Ever since the late nineteenth century medieval fragments have been taken from old library bindings, in the process of restoration. This has been the main ‘source’ for the fragment collections. These collections received various shelfmarks in the last century:  BPL 2144, BPL 2454, BPL 2513, BPL 2514, BPL 2515, BPL 2552, BPL 2641, BPL 2705, BPL 2888, BPL 3001, BPL 3252, BPL 3254, BPL 3255, BPL 3327, BPL 3503, BPL 3504. Furthermore, important identified fragments have been described individually, using separate shelfmarks, (like a fragment with the oldest text in Breton language: VLF 96 A). Nearly all fragments are described in Gumbert 2009.

Information retrieval: databases

Digital Special Collections contains collection level descriptions, item descriptions as well as digital images of medieval manuscripts:

Information retrieval: printed catalogues

The following printed catalogues (links to the Catalogue) describe medieval manuscript (nearly always in greater detail than Digital Special Collections):

Information retrieval: internet selections

Last Modified: 10-11-2014