Medieval Manuscripts Project—part one

Medieval Manuscripts Project—part one
Thank you for your support!
27 February 2015

Among the National Library’s treasures are some 228 rare and significant medieval manuscripts. These little known items were acquired as part of our earliest and foundation collections, including the Clifford, Nan Kivell and Petherick Collections.

Last year we asked for your help to carry out important work conserving and digitising these manuscripts. The funding project has been integral to preserving the manuscripts for the future and making them accessible online to a much broader audience. At the Library we were amazed by the generous support and enthusiasm for this project and at the close of the appeal on 31 July 2014 over $125,000 had been given.

Digitisation of the manuscripts will allow us to 'digitally repatriate' some of the volumes. For example, in the Petherick Collection, we hold an English psalter in Latin dating from the 14th century. This volume is of particular significance because it contains evidence of Welsh ownership, which is quite rare and suggests that the volume was secretly conveyed to Wales after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1536. Some of the pages include delightful notes made by a 16th-century school boy. When the project is finished and the psalter is available online, further study can be done by scholars overseas and it can be connected back to its Welsh heritage.

We are well under way to completing the project, with over 50% of the collection already digitised. Here is a look at one of our photographers, Brenton, digitising a 13th century Latin Bible from France from the Clifford collection.

The Clifford collection was the family library of the late Baron Clifford of Chudleigh and was acquired by the National Library in 1963 by his heir Colonel Hon. Hugh Clifford of Ugbrooke Park, Chudleigh, Devon, England. It is made up of medieval and later manuscripts including prayer books, bibles and essays collected by various members of the Clifford family and relating mainly to Roman Catholicism.

At the Library we are extremely grateful to you for helping us to carry out these significant projects which would not otherwise be possible. Throughout the coming year we will be posting updates and interesting finds from the medieval manuscripts project so check back soon.  

(Take a look at the March issue of the National Library Magazine for an article on the mid-15th century Italian Book of Hours from the Clifford collection.)

I am the genealogist for the Clifford Association One Name Study of the Clifford surname of which Lord Thomas Clifford of Chudleigh is the patron. I am really grateful that you are doing the digitisation of the Clifford documents as it will enable us to be able to access them. Thanks