New Libraries on the DMMapp!

Astrologica - Chetham's MS Mun.A.4.99

It’s spring, the sun is shining, and the DMMapp has more links than ever thanks to the following additions:

We have also updated the link to the Biblioteca Teresiana which was reported as broken! This brings the total linked libraries in the DMMapp to 536.

What can we find?

We do not know, really! There are hundreds of new digitized manuscripts in these repositories, and it’s up to you to explore. For example: the Borthwick Archives will make everyone that is into charters more than books happy.

A screenshot from the Borthwick Archives.
A screenshot from the Borthwick Archives.

While the Chetham’s Library has Chetham’s MS Mun.A.4.99, which contains:

Astrological and astronomical work containing volvelles, tables, charts of eclipses and other astronomical phenomena; with calendars and weather forecasting advice correlated with medical and therapeutic information. Also includes the labours of the twelve months.

I mean, look at this awesomeness:

Chetham's MS Mun.A.4.99 f 2r - Volvelle with the position of the planets.
Chetham’s MS Mun.A.4.99 f 2r – Volvelle with the position of the planets and the moon.

If you want to know more about medieval volvelles, don’t miss this post from the Getty!

But wait, there’s much more!

Follow the links in this page, or visit the DMMapp and have fun finding hidden treasures! Found something awesome? Let everyone know! A big thank you to all those that reported the missing links. You made codicology even sexier.

As always, if you are aware of any library or repository that is not on the DMMapp, let us know.

IIIF – The digitized manuscripts revolution we’ve all been waiting for!

Comparing two images of the evangelists, one from the Bodleian, the other from St. Gallen

We created the DMMapp to make it easier for you to find collections of digitized manuscripts – and IIIF is making it easier for you to view, study, and compare manuscripts. In this post we are going to tell you all about why it’s awesome!

In 2011, a group of international libraries and universities [ 1 ]Stanford University, The British Library, Bodleian Libraries, The Bibliothèque nationale de France, the National Library of Norway, Cornell ...continue set up the International Image Interoperability Framework, or, in short, IIIF (pronounced as triple-I-F).

IIIF example from the Bodleian Library
Example of the zoom capabilities in a manuscript from the Bodleian Libraries
See the manuscript in Mirador yourself by clicking this image.


One of the biggest issues that we at Sexy Codicology have always run into is the fact that almost every library, museum, or other heritage institute, deals with the presentation of digitized manuscripts in their own, unique, way. There is a big variety in the viewers that are used for images, and you can only use their viewers or download the images yourself. Some of these viewers are not always easy to work with, and have often big limitations to how you can view the manuscript or what you can do with it.

This is exactly the issue that the collaborating libraries are addressing with the IIIF initiative[ 2 ]See the original “about page” on the International Image Interoperability Framework website for more info.. Scholars and programmers from all over the world are working together on providing a technology that give researchers, and heritage enthusiasts, a rich and uniform experience when viewing digitized heritage. Most of all, they want to make it possible that as many digital collections as possible all work in the same way, so that any image from any museum or library can be seen in any viewer online, together with any other manuscript or artwork that is IIIF compliant! Side-by-side!

I want IIIF! Where do I get it?

IIIF is not a program or app to install on your device. The International Image Interoperability Framework is a standard that institutions can use; a sort of list of rules to stick to. These rules describe the way to present the images and the descriptive data about it. If a library follows all these rules, they have “IIIF-ified” their images. The more libraries and museums all stick to these rules, the better, because this means that any image from any digitized collections can be seen in any of the IIIF-compatible viewers.

So what does IIIF mean for me?

In short, IIIF means a revolution in viewing, browsing, and comparing digitized manuscripts. Better image quality, more zoom, and extra possibilities, such as annotation and colour tweaking. When you are just browsing on institutions’ websites you will see more viewers that are alike, with the same options.

What is the best about IIIF? The fact that you can compare any two (or many more!) manuscripts that have been IIIF-ified side by side regardless of what institution they come from! You want to compare the script of manuscripts that are being held at the Bodleian Libraries, Stanford Libraries, and the Vatican Library? No problem!

See this example of a manuscript held in Bern alongside one held at the Vatican (wait for them to load!).

Comparing two images of the evangelists, one from the Bodleian, the other from St. Gallen
Comparing two images of the Evangelists, one from the Bodleian Libraries, the other from St. Gallen.

Combine and compare manuscripts from various libraries and museums in one viewer with a simple copy-and-paste of a link (we will explain in another blog post how to do this yourself). Then you can even share your own collection or comparison with anyone by simply copying the link to the viewer!

Another possibility of IIIF is the annotations option. This means that you cannot only make notes on the images for yourself, but also share these with others. Think of creating a gallery or exhibition with selected manuscripts and notes about interesting features, ready to share with your students, fellow researchers, or just for you own fun!

IIIF Colour inversion in a manuscript from the BSB
Annotation example from the Bayerische Staatsbibliotheek – BSB CLM 826.

Awesome, but…

Yes, IIIF is a great revolution that creates lots of possibilities for manuscript studies and revolutionizes viewing digital material, but there are also some downsides to it at the moment.

One of these is pointed out by Dot Porter on her blog. She explains that even though collections might be IIIF-ified and made available in high resolution with deep zoom, we have to be careful. These images might not have have open rights licenses, and you would not be allowed to use them as you want to. In a perfect world, IIIF-ified manuscripts would be also made available with public domain licenses, but there is still a long road to go in this field.

Comparing two 9th century Bibles, one from the Vatican, one from e-codices.
Comparing two 9th-century Bibles, one from the Vatican Library, one from e-codices.

An example of this: the Vatican has recently launched a new shiny website and is digitizing at a fast rate, but the manuscripts are covered by a strict “all rights reserved” copyright license. Nothing can be re-used without permission. They provide the IIIF link in the information box so you can add it to any viewer, but you cannot re-use these images in any other way than look at them. But this might be the only thing that you need.

It’s great that anyone can see these books for free online, but we hope things will be further optimized. It is always tempting to think that, when images are available in such a high resolution, that they are options for re-use, but this is the catch. So tread with care!

Many institutions are working very hard on implementing IIIF for their collections, but these things take time and effort. We have to be patient at the moment. Not all the manuscripts we would like to have in our own, personalized, digital collection can be added yet until an institution will provide the IIIF service.

Still, this is moving so fast right now, with many libraries picking up this technology. Also, IIIF is constantly moving forward, so who knows what other cool options we will have in the future!

Who is IIIF-ied?

Want to check out some institutions that have live IIIF-ified collections already? This is a short overview of institutions that we found (a full list of all institutions working on IIIF can be found here):

If you have become as enthusiastic about the possibilities of IIIF as we are, keep on watching this space! Soon we will publish a short guide on how to work with a viewer and make awesome comparisons and collections yourself!

And for some further reading and interesting websites:

Footnotes   [ + ]

100 newly digitized manuscripts online

Add MS 11850 f. 10r - St. Peter

There is no way we could have come up with a better title. The British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France have just digitized 100 manuscripts, all dated between 700CE and 1200CE, and made them available online! The news is so awesome that as soon as we saw it on Twitter we decided we would write this post.

The more digitized manuscripts by the British Library, the merrier!

What is there to find in this new “release”? Well, as the title says: 100, fully digitized medieval manuscripts, available for everyone to browse for free. Which, you ask? The British Library has prepared a tidy Excel Sheet for you with everything you need to know!

We gave a quick look, and here is just three examples of the awesomeness that awaits you!

Add MS 11283 – Bestiary

Medieval Bestiary from the British Library - Add MS 11283 - A peacock
Add MS 11283 – Bestiary – f. 23r Describing the voice of the peacock: Martial 13.72 – Pavo nomen de sono vocis habet; cuius caro tam dura est ut putredinem vix sentiat, nec facile coquatur. De quo quidam sic ait… [ 1 ]Text taken from an online version of the Isidore’s Book XII from the Etymologiae, see: ...continue

This manuscript is the earliest extant manuscript of Clark’s Second-family bestiaries that brings in new materials by following a system of classification into beasts, birds and reptiles.[ 2 ]As it is often the case with the British Library, always read their full description of the objects. Very detailed and interesting. In this case see: ...continue

Medieval miniature: King Garamantes captured by his enemies and then rescued by his dogs
Add MS 11283 – Bestiary – f.10r King Garamantes captured by his enemies and then rescued by his dogs. The text under the miniature reads: “Legitur [canes] in tantum suos diligere dominos ut Garramantem regem ab inimicis captum ac in custodia mansipatum, ducenti canes agmine feto, per medias acies inimicorum ab exilio reduxerint, preliantes adversus insistentes…” [Hugo III, xi][ 3 ]We have extracted the text from an online transcribed text of the Bestiarium of Anne Walsh

Add MS 11850 – Hieronymus, Epistula ad Damasum papam

Add MS 11850 - Hieronymus, Epistula ad Damasum papam f. 10r - Detail, St. Peter
Add MS 11850 f. 10r Hieronymus, Epistula ad Damasum papam – Detail, St. Peter

The Préaux Gospels from Normandy and dated early 12th-century. This gives us the possibility to highlight the Quality with which the digitization has taken place. Bravo!

Add MS 38818 – Composite manuscript

Add MS 38818 - Palladius, De Agricultura; Vitruvius, De Architectura; Flavius Vegetius, De re militari; Extracts from Justinian, Institutiones; Indexes of words and concepts related to different works of St Augustine and to Prosper of Aquitaine's Epigrammata ex sententiis Sancti; an anonymous treatise on signs; A table of chapters of the Sententie libri iii; a collection of 50 sermons including Robert of Basevorn's Forma predicandi; extract from Isidore of Seville, Synonyma
Add MS 38818 – Palladius, De Agricultura; Vitruvius, De Architectura; Flavius Vegetius, De re militari; Extracts from Justinian, Institutiones; Indexes of words and concepts related to different works of St Augustine and to Prosper of Aquitaine’s Epigrammata ex sententiis Sancti; an anonymous treatise on signs; A table of chapters of the Sententie libri iii; a collection of 50 sermons including Robert of Basevorn’s Forma predicandi; extract from Isidore of Seville, Synonyma – Yep, all in one book!

If you like BIG manuscripts full of different text and styles of writing, this one is for you! This manuscript contains:

  • Palladius, De Agricultura
  • Vitruvius, De Architectura
  • Flavius Vegetius, De re military
  • Extracts from Justinian, Institutiones
  • Indices of words and concepts related to different works of St Augustine and to Prosper of Aquitaine, Epigrammata ex sententiis Sancti Augustini
  • An anonymous treatise on signs
  • A table of chapters of Isidore of Seville, Sententie libri iii
  • A collection of 50 sermons followed by Robert of Basevorn, Forma predicandi
  • Excerpt from Isidore of Seville, Synonyma de lamentatione animae peccatricis

A complete description is available on the British Library’s website.

Who do we have to thank for this?

This digitization effort is part of The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project: Manuscripts from the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France which couples the two libraries in a collaborative project that aims to create two innovative new websites that will make 800CE manuscripts decorated before the year 1200CE available freely! [ 4 ]See the official post on this for more information.

100 digitized manuscripts in 7 months! Fantastic. We applaud the project, and sit impatiently behind our desks in anticipation of all the other jewels that will soon be online. Go to the British Library’s website and get lost in manuscript heaven!

You can follow the British Library on Twitter[ 5 ]The account is focused in medieval manuscripts and on Facebook, but you can also follow their medieval manuscripts’ adventure on their blog.

Footnotes   [ + ]

The digitized manuscripts of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Laurentian Library, Maiestas Domini (Christ in Majesty) with the Four Evangelists and their symbols, at the start of the New Testament; page from Codex Amiatinus (fol. 796v), Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana.

The Laurentian Library, in context

Florence is a beautiful city. The kind of city many people from Rome like myself would like to move to; so similar is it to the Capital: full of art, culture, history… but without the broken roads, the traffic, and a bit more calm. Florence is also home to the Laurentian Library, or, as it’s called in Italian: Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, or more simply “La Laurenziana”. One of the greatest libraries in the world; one of the places that you have to visit. If you can’t get there, you can view their digitized manuscripts on their recently launched new interface!

But how did the Laurentian Library come to be? The history of the library is extremely long; so let’s go back to the beginning: it’s 1519 and you are Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici. You are a powerful Cardinal that will be pope just four years later. You want a library. Who do you call? Well, Michelangelo, of course! You spare no expense.

Laurentian Library, Maiestas Domini (Christ in Majesty) with the Four Evangelists and their symbols, at the start of the New Testament; page from Codex Amiatinus (fol. 796v), Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana.
Maiestas Domini (Christ in Majesty) with the Four Evangelists and their symbols, at the start of the New Testament; page from Codex Amiatinus (fol. 796v), Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. Source: Wikipedia, Public Domain.

What then? Well, Michelangelo began working on the architectonic masterpiece the same year, with consistency, until 1534. That year, after the death of his father and Giuliano de’ Medici, and the displeasing political situation in Florence, Michelangelo decided to abandon Florence for greener pastures, leaving the Laurenziana incomplete.

The works on the Biblioteca Medicea were then carried on by other architects, based on drawings and indications by Buonarroti himself. As a result, in 1571, year of the inauguration, the library finally had become a masterpiece fit for the extraordinary books kept inside.

What’s in the Laurentian Library?

The Laurentian Library is home to around 11,000 manuscripts, 2,500 papyri, 43 ostraca[ 1 ]Usually small pieces of stone or pottery with writing scratched onto the surface., 566 incunabula, 1,681 16th-century prints, and 126,527 prints of the 17th to 20th centuries.[ 2 ] – La Biblioteca conserva oggi all’incirca 11.000 manoscritti […], 2.500 ...continue

The story of these manuscripts starts with Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1571, who first opened the Library. Navigating the Laurentian Library’s website you will notice the signature Pluteus or Pluteo (Plut.) This refers to the early manuscripts present in the library that were on display on the book-shelves designed by Michelangelo that served and serve as shelving, lecterns and seating. Book-shelf = pluteus[ 3 ] – V. A book-shelf, bookcase, desk, Pers. 1, 106; “with ...continue. Mindblowing. These include the manuscripts that were collected by the Medici family and that Giulio di Giuliano de’ Medici (future Pope Clement VII) took to Florence in the 1520s.

Angelo Maria Bandini, a famous librarian who also looked after the Biblioteca Marucelliana, was appointed to the Laurentiana in 1757, and made sure to expand on the printed catalogues.

The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, online

Laurentian Library, Portrait of Ezra, Amiat. 1, 5r - Biblia Sacra - Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence.
Portrait of Ezra, Amiat. 1, 5r – Biblia Sacra – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence. Source: Wikipedia, Public Domain.

Let’s start off by saying that the amazing Codex Amiatinus is fully digitized. That’s the oldest extant manuscript of the Latin Vulgate[ 4 ]Murray, Peter, Murray, Linda, and Jones, Tom Devonshire. “Codex Amiatinus.” The Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art & Architecture ...continue. The Syriac Rabula Gospels are also there! All in all, 4000 are freely accessible to browse!


The interface works as expected in 2017: you can zoom in to see the smallest detail, or have an overview of all the manuscript’s thumbnails. The quality of the digitization is high; although we did come across some manuscripts that were underexposed and dark. We would show you what we mean with two screenshots, but we cannot due to copyrights. Speaking of this, the images are covered all over by the copyright symbol.

You are also able to invert the colors of a folio to help you read the text and identify details.

All very cool, but we were not able to find a “download” button for the images. Although this didn’t come as a surprise, this is a serious problem for ever-moving researchers[ 5 ]Tip: you can rotate the image 90 degrees, set full screen, and take a screenshot of the page; theoretically you could then save a 4K image, depending ...continue.

The Laurenziana on the DMMapp
The Laurenziana on the DMMapp

The interface is in English and very easy to navigate. Maybe the background isn’t ideal; a bit “noisy”, which does not help when you are trying to read a 10th century manuscript, or a post 16th century one. A monochromatic background might have been better.

Search could be a bit improved. Finding the treasures like plut. 39.1 (Mediceus of Virgil) was difficult: Inserting “plut. 39.1” didn’t show the results I wanted; the vernacular name didn’t work either, but I expected that. In the end, I filtered the results: “Manuscripts dated 0400 to 0500, by collection “Plutei”, and there it was. Not ideal, but Search Engines are tricky to set up, so in my opinion this is a forgivable fault.


There is also no clear indication of the copyrights except the superimposed watermarks and the copyright symbol in the footer. This caused us to investigate before posting anything, and thank the Tremulous Hand of Worcester we did[ 6 ]See the note at the end of the post. It is a shame that the rules concerning how you can use the images are not clearly explained on the website.

Final Remarks

The new interface is based on “MagusOnline” software. We wanted to read some more technical details to understand it better, alas we were unable to find any documentation.

It’s a shame that the Laurentian Library did not implement IIIF, the International Image Interoperability Framework. This would have allowed researchers, and users in general, to compare medieval manuscripts coming from La Laurenziana, to others coming from libraries that have already adopted IIIF.[ 7 ]See IIIF at work over at the Bodleian! A lost occasion that makes the project feel almost already old and outdated. Don’t know what IIIF is? Want to know more? Stay tuned as Marjolein finishes her post on this subject!

Although the silly copyright issues and the technical uncertainties, having the Laurentian Library so easily accessible is awesome, and will certainly please all the culture-loving internauts out there!

Editor’s note: about the images in this post

After we finished writing this post, we turned to adding the images. We were trying to figure out from the website what the rights statements were that are applied to these images. What you usually expect is an explanation that clearly describes how you can or cannot use images (no commercial use, for example).

The only thing that we could find on the website about this is the © in the footer. This gave us an indication that there were copyrights put on these images, but still we wanted to know some more about the exact terms of re-use for this material. So, we contacted the Laurentian Library and we were told that the images are “protected by current regulations[ 8 ]This happened via a Facebook chat. At first I thought I expressed myself badly; that I had been misunderstood. So I sent an example of which detail I ...continue.” This means that no one can create a screenshot of a detail and publish it on a blog, even with the correct attribution, link to the source, etc. 

To add any image to this post we would have to ask for authorization, possibly pay a fee, and only then embed the pictures coming from the Laurentian Library’s new website. The same goes for any digitized manuscript held by an Italian institution. This is not the Laurenziana’s fault, but the Italian law’s.

We will not discuss here how masochistic, ridiculous, out-of-this-time the Italian law is. As an Italian, I feel very ashamed of this situation. And I apologize.

We have chosen to use the images that come from Wikipedia instead, and link to those. These images are also possibly unauthorized, but these have been uploaded to Wikipedia as being in the Public Domain.

Of course, we are very thankful that these manuscripts have been digitized at all and made accessible for browsing for free. But we hope this small adventure of us will make you think and be grateful to all those institutions that share their material under a Public Domain or Creative Commons license.

We welcome the Biblioteca Laurenziana to contact us and correct us on this topic, should we have made any mistakes.

Footnotes   [ + ]

New, old, and missing digitized manuscripts

As you might have read in our previous post concerning the DMMapp 3.0, one of the best features is that now we can easily see which links in our database are broken, along with quickly adding what we receive via the missing library form.

Now you see me…

Let’s start with the good news: It took us a while, but we are happy to have added the Ruusbroecgenootschap and Universiteitsbibliotheek Antwerpen to the list. Previously we had already a link for the University Library of Antwerp, but we were kindly provided with a better links to the catalog, where you can access digitized versions of the manuscripts from both the collections. We have also removed a duplicate link we noticed, always from Antwerp.

But wait! There’s more!

We have also added nine new repositories:

  • Medievalia: Fundamental texts of medieval Romanian culture
  • Pomeranian Library of Szczecin
  • Christ Church College
  • University of British Columbia
  • Pembroke College
  • St Catharine’s College
  • Univerzitná knižnica v Bratislava (University Library, Bratislava)
  • Durham Cathedral Library
  • Rakow Library, Corning Museum of Glass
St Catharine’s College MS 4 (Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia)
St Catharine’s College MS 4 (Cicero, Laelius de Amicitia)

…now you don’t!

Repositories are like organisms: they evolve, they change, they improve, they move. Sometimes, unfortunately, they simply disappear. This month we noticed ten broken links in our database, and we went on to fix them.

In five cases we had no problem: we found where the new links were and we restored the accessibility (301 Redirect, webmasters!) In the remaining five cases we were unfortunately unable to find the new links to digitized manuscripts and we were forced to remove the links from the DMMapp [ 1 ]The change is documented on our GitHub

These are the repositories we were unable to find any longer:
• Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek
• Greenslade Archives and Special Collections
• Museum Plantin-Moretus
• Benediktinerinnenkloster (Neuburg a.d.Donau)
• Moravian Land Library

DCL MS B.II.9 St Jerome on the minor Old Testament prophets
DCL MS B.II.9 St Jerome on the minor Old Testament prophets

We are especially concerned for the Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp. The website reads: “The library of approximately 25,000 old printed books and 638 manuscripts can be explored in Antwerp’s Anet library network.” [ 2 ]Stated on their website This usually means that access to the digitized books is restricted to the people who are within a limited network, while the rest of the world can’t see the content. There is a highlight page where a single folio of three (out of 638!) manuscripts are shown. [ 3 ]The other three folios are here That’s quite little.
We did find some manuscripts in their online catalogue with a link to the digitized item, which, unfortunately does not load.

But we might be blind so, please, if you know where the digitized manuscripts from the repositories mentioned above can now be accessed, do let us know!

The code update is visible as always on GitHub. You can follow this specific file to be notified every time we update the DMMapp database.

Footnotes   [ + ]

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