January 2011 I posted about the New Year’s day passage from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The passage (and the post) features an exchange of gifts, including hondeselles, and the relationship of the “kissing games” alluded to in SGGK to “handy-dandy, prickly-prandy.”
The 13th Century Book of Aneirin has been completely digitized and placed online. This is one of the four major Welsh mss. mostly known because it contains the text of Y Goddodin, an epic poem retelling the historic battle of Catraeth wherein 300 Men from Manaw Gododdin, near Edinburgh, fought the Saxons at Catraeth (modern day Catterick, North Yorkshire) around the year 600AD. Only three of the Britons survived the battle, one of whom, the poet Aneirin, commemorates the fallen.
This is the last of the Four Ancient Books of Wales to be digitized and made publicly available. The other three books are:
These are high-resolution, reproduction-quality images with embedded metadata, some over 100 megabytes in size. You can browse the images, or look for individual “download” links on the Getty Museum’s collection pages. Before the download actually begins, the Getty site asks simple questions about how you plan to use the images.
The Getty released images of many of its most famous works, including paintings like Vincent van Gogh’s Irises, but I’m especially excited by the medieval manuscripts (The Getty purchased the Ludwig collection, a huge collection of manuscripts rich in psalters and books of hours several years ago, and already had a solid collection, and they’ve added mss. since).
Here’s an image from a Book of Hours illuminated by Jean Poyer; the Hours of Henry VIII/The Prayer Book of Ann de Bretagne, from the collections of The Morgan Library. This is the calendar page for May, otherwise known as f. 3. The image below is from the top part of the folio, above the calendar proper.
Notice that it appears to be a courtship scene, entirely appropriate for May, and May day (they tend to favor courting and hawking scenes, often accompanied by greenery). They look as if they’ve been out “bringing in the May,” or “getting some green,” in the wee hours of May 1.
While we know the work is that of Jean Poyer, and that it was once owned by Ann de Bretagne, there’s an unproven eighteenth-century tradition that claims King Henry of England once owned this book of hours.
Mostly, I just like the Maying reference, and the little dog.
The British Library began the digital catalog in 1997. Currently the catalog provides a digital record of 4,231 different manuscript, and includes 35,661 images those manuscripts, with a searchable database. The images were scanned following the best digital practices, and include provenance, metadata, and in many cases, detailed images.
Technically these works are still in copyright in the UK until 2040, but given that they are anonymous and many centuries old, the Library has decided to provide the images on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts under a Public Domain Mark and treat them as public domain works, as would be the case in many other countries.
For more information, please see the library’s use and reuse policy for CIM. We ask that you maintain the library’s Public Domain tag, and provide a link or other credit back to the image’s source on the British Library’s site – help us share these riches even more widely with the world.
I’m absolutely delighted by this news. The British Library and its staff have made it extraordinarily simple to search for a particular MS. by name or shelf number. You can also search by Keyword or perform advanced searches related to specific characteristics of the manuscript or its illumination including MSS. or images from a given region or time period, or even of a particular subject matter.
Please respect the creators – ensure traditional cultural expressions and all ethical concerns in the use of the material are considered, and any information relating to the creator is clear and accurate. Please note, any adaptations made to an item should not be attributed to the original creator and should not be derogatory to the originating cultures or communities.
Please credit the source of the material—providing a link back to the image on the British Library’s website will encourage others to explore and use the collections.
Please share knowledge where possible—please annotate, tag and share derivative works with others as well as the Library wherever possible.
Support the Public Domain – users of public domain works are asked to support the efforts of the Library to care for, preserve, digitise and make public domain works available. This support could include monetary contributions or work in kind, particularly when the work is being used for commercial or other for-profit purposes.
Please preserve all public domain marks and notices attached to the works – this will notify other users that the images are free from copyright restrictions and encourage greater use of the collection.
This is a fabulous resource and a great way to learn all sorts of things. I’ll be taking full advantage!