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Guest Edited by Dr David Rundle (MEMS, University of Kent), Emily Allison, Rebecca Gaylord and Fay West

This section does not aim to list all the available online catalogues of libraries' manuscript collections. It is worth remembering that they are often incomplete and that they need to be supplemented by hard-copy catalogues for those collections not listed online. There are some adds for that:

Paul Oskar Kristeller’s Latin Manuscript Books before 1600, as revised by Sigrid Krämer - this is a catalogue of catalogues, listing printed catalogues for all libraries, but it only covers those manuscripts in the Latin language. 

Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts - it began life listing manuscripts which had appeared at auction but is now developing to include as many catalogue records as possible.

The traditions of what shelfmarks libraries give to manuscripts is a topic in itself. Over its life, a manuscript is likely to have been known by several designations and (if it has become famous among certain groups of scholars) it may have a sobriquet like the Vatican Vergil or the Ellesmere Chaucer. The second decade of our millennium has seen a proposal to add another layer to this history by introducing an international system of unique identifiers. The case for this is discussed by Toby Burrows.

Alternative Routes to the British Library Collections

The British Library continues to be offline, following their recent cyber-attack. Fortunately, digitised catalogues of their main collections exist elsewhere online. The following catalogues are free to access and offer an interim solution while the British Library’s online services are being restored.


Arundel and Burney Collections – Josiah Forshall began compiling the Arundel and Burney Collections during his time as Keeper of the Department. Volume I was published in 1834, but the series was disrupted when Forshall withdrew from the department.

Cotton Collection – this catalogue comprises the collections of Sir Robert Cotton, Peter Tilleman, and Dr. Andrew Tooke, which were auctioned by Christopher Cock at the Great Piazza in Covent Garden in 1733. Thomas Smith's 1696 Latin catalogue of the Cotton collection, Bibliotechae Cottonianae, is another excellent option.

Harley Collection – early 19th Century publications of Humfrey Wanley’s Catalogue of Harleian Manuscripts are available online in the following four volumes: Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV.

Lansdowne Collection ­– Sir Henry Ellis and Francis Douce’s 19th Century catalogue of The Manuscripts in the Lansdowne Collection is available online in two parts: Part I and Part II.

Old Royal and King’s Collection –  the 1921 publication of Sir George Warner and Julius Gilson’s Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King’s Collections is split across two volumes, which can be found here: Volume I and Volume II.

Sloane Collection – this 1904 index details the Sloane Collection, which is particularly rich in manuscripts related to science and medicine.

Yates Thompson Collection – three catalogues of the Yates Thompson Collection were published across a fourteen-year period at the turn of the 20th Century. These include a descriptive catalogue of fifty manuscripts, a catalogue of illuminated manuscripts LXXV – XCIV and a catalogue of illuminated manuscripts XCV – CVII and 79a.

Additional and Egerton Manuscripts – an 1849 publication of F. Madden’s catalogue, which details the manuscripts acquired by the British Museum between 1783 and 1835.

Additionally, Electronic Sawyer's Online Catalogue of Anglo Saxon Charters provides descriptions of many of the BL's medieval charters and manuscripts.

Old English Poetry in Facsimile also makes available a collection of Old English poetry in BL manuscripts, providing digital facsimile editions, manuscript images, transcriptions and translations.

OPenn provides a collection of digitised images of the BL's medieval and early modern Hebrew manuscripts, as well as detailed manuscript descriptions.

Alternative Routes to British Library Collections

Resource page updated by Amilia Gillies. Last updated 05/02/24.

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