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Medieval Manuscripts

A guide to The Huntington's medieval manuscripts.

Fall of Princes, John Lydgate, England 15th century, HM 268 f. 24v

The Huntington Library possesses one of the largest collections of British medieval manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere. The majority of the library's medieval holdings were produced in England or Europe for the English market. However, the library does hold hundreds of important manuscripts produced in Western Europe for a non-English market as well (i.e., France, Italy, the Low Countries, Germany, Spain and Portugal). 

This collection includes nearly 500 bound volumes of literary, historical, and religious materials, which contain about 2,000 separate texts. Manuscripts in Middle English (1150–1500), particularly of prose and verse, are a collecting strength. English law is also a strength that carries into the early modern and modern British collections. The Huntington is one of the few libraries in the U.S. that actively collects English medieval legal texts. 

The Huntington has a fine collection of medieval liturgical manuscripts: Bibles, missals, psalters and breviaries. There are important holdings of 13th-century French bibles and some 75 illuminated Books of Hours. 

The materials described in this research guide consist of medieval codex volumes and illuminated rolls. Medieval deeds, court rolls, and other archival documents are described in the research guide for British Historical Manuscripts.

Image credit: John Lydgate, Fall of Princes, England 15th century, HM 268 f. 24v. Precise source and date of acquisition by Henry E. Huntington unknown.

Discovery

The Huntington Library Catalog

Medieval manuscript volumes are all represented by individual records in the library catalog. Titles, authors, illuminators, scribes, former owners and other agents associated with the creation or history of the manuscript have been added to the records when identified. Variations in transcriptions, letterforms and orthography should be considered when searching titles. Learn how to find manuscripts in the library catalog.

Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Huntington Library

The “Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Huntington Library” (Vols.1-2) is a comprehensive itemized description of our holdings acquired before 1990. Both volumes of this guide are available online through the HaitiTrust Digital Library. See also: Kidd, P. (2009). Supplement to the Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Huntington Library. “Huntington Library Quarterly,” 72(4), 1-101, available online via JSTOR.

Digital Scriptorum (DS)

The Huntington was a founding member of Digital Scriptorium, an online union catalog of US institutions with medieval manuscripts in their collections.  DS contains descriptive information about each volume and text contained within each volume, as well as a sample of images from manuscripts (primarily of miniatures and decorated initials). DS also allows researchers to search across repositories. 

There are multiple search options in DS. To search by shelfmark, input a 5-digit number in the search box. In some cases, you must enter extra zeros at the beginning of the number (e.g., HM 01345) to meet the search criteria. To browse by location, you must do an ‘Advanced Search’ and browse by ‘Current Location.’ Locations are listed by city, not institution, so you’ll need to look for San Marino, instead of Huntington. Additional search help for DS is available online

Information Files

Many of The Huntington’s medieval manuscripts have corresponding Information Files, containing various reader’s notes, related publications, and more detailed provenance information if known. These files may be requested for on-site use through Aeon.

Access

Medieval volumes may be paged to the Ahmanson Reading Room through Aeon. Learn how to request materials through Aeon by visiting our Researching at The Huntington guide

The library is also actively digitizing its medieval manuscript collections. If a manuscript is fully digitized, the library catalog record will contain a link to the manuscript’s digital surrogate in The Huntington Digital Library.

N.B. These collections are restricted and require prior curatorial approval for on-site use.

Related Research Guides

British Historical Manuscripts

A navigational guide to the core British history collections.

History of Medicine
A guide to The Huntington's collections in the history of medicine.

Incunabula
A guide to The Huntington's books printed before 1501.