As someone who loves manuscripts and medieval culture, you might one day end up in Belgium, exploring Flanders, and you might go to Bruges, which was flourishing in the Middle Ages. The area has produced countless beautiful manuscripts with a very typical and recognizable style of illuminations now preserved at the Public Library of Bruges.
Bruges’ golden days were in the Middle Ages when it was a very prosperous harbor city that attracted many merchants. The historical city centre today is still much like it was in the Middle Ages which makes it an amazing place to visit for every medievalist (or everyone. Period).
About the Openbare Bibliotheek Brugge – Public Library of Bruges
Situated in the city center, the OBB is home to volumes that once belonged to various monastery libraries in the area; in 1798 the French government gathered these books into one collection and in 1804 this was handed over to the city of Bruges, where it is now housed in the Public Library of Bruges. The library also possesses manuscripts from the Cistercian abbeys of Ten Duinen and Ter Doest not too far from Bruges.
The Public Library of Bruges is currently doing an excellent job digitizing their manuscripts, and many of these are already available online. Unfortunately, at the moment the databases can only be consulted in Dutch because of government decrees, but worry not! We are here to help you on your way navigating through the collection and find awesome manuscripts!
As always, you can access the Openbare Bibliotheek Brugge via the DMMapp, or you can start by looking at the manuscripts on this page, clicking on them and discovering the rest of the collection on their website. There are various places where you can view the manuscripts, and find information about them:
- The OBB’s own website (not all the entries you see here have a link to the digital version)
- Flandrica (digitized Flemish heritage from various institutions)
Over at Flandrica, if you are viewing the full entry of a particular manuscript you can click the images on top to view them bigger. Or you can also view it online if there is the orange button with “Bekijk online”.
- Highlights from various museums in Bruges (this website has some more in-depth information about certain manuscripts, unfortunately only in Dutch.)
A look at the digital manuscripts
The viewer for the manuscripts gives a nice thumbnail overview in the left sidebar to make it easier to navigate and find what you are looking for. It gives a bit the experience of ‘leafing’ through the book. Unfortunately, at the moment the images can be only zoomed to a small degree (click right to zoom) and the images cannot be downloaded or directly shared.
What is very good about the library’s own website is that they give a direct link not only to the digitized manuscript but they also refer you to various other sources about the book such as books, articles or blog posts. Also, the full descriptions of the manuscripts are rich, and in the future they will be expanded with iconographical descriptions.
Under ‘media’ you can see some pictures of the manuscripts, the complete work can be seen through the “Bekijk hier de digitale versie” link. The images in ‘media’ are of good size and quality and can easily shared and/or saved.
In this library you will not only find beautiful examples of the best of medieval Bruges illuminated books of hours. For instance they also preserve a manuscript of the Liber Trotula (work on women’s medicine), an early printed edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses with illuminated borders, a work by Augustine, De Natura Rerum (by Thomas of Cantimpré), a legal manuscript (Justinian) possibly from Bologna, and much much more.
The collections of the Openbare Bibliotheek Brugge are a beautiful showcase of the treasures from this part of Flanders and are certainly worth visiting, both in real life and digitally.
- MS 321
- GETIJDEN- EN GEBEDENBOEK [MS. 675]
- Ms. 411 – De natura rerum [titel incipit] rerum natura
- Ms. 251 – Speculum doctrinale
- Ms. 593 – Liber Trotula (medical manuscript about women’s medicine)
- MS 106
- MS 365
- Whole album of pictures from a Book of Hours (not digitized)
- The OBB’s blog about heritage that they own
For some manuscripts you cannot find the digital version, but you can find some images in the blog posts, if they have written about this manuscript in particular.
Finally, we leave you with this fantastic video made by them: