The worst days of COVID19 may be a bad memory now but a lockdown library still has its uses. The dangers to our way of living come not just from a deadly virus, as has been shown by the cyber-attack on the British Library's digital resources on 26th October 2023. The BL is working hard to restore its digital facilities. Those include (but are, obviously, not confined to), their digitised manuscripts and their catalogues of manuscripts. Researchers now, as during lockdown, are having to be resourceful in finding work-arounds. We at MEMSLib are doing just that and, for the remaining days or weeks while the online manuscript catalogue is not available, we have some tips for you.
To that point, several manuscript catalogues exist online elsewhere that may help close the gap while the BL’s site is being restored. MEMSLib has compiled a list which is linked at the end of this post!
For example, the vast and varied catalogue of the Old Royal and King’s Collection, Volume 1 contains a great number of biblical texts including Jerome’s Vulgate, theological works by St. Gregory the Great, St. Isadore of Seville, Alcuin and others. Also available are several treatises by St. Augustine, along with “controversial theological collections” from the reign of Henry VIII (p. 172), as well as statutes and charters from the reign of Elizabeth I (p. 278).
Volume 2 holds a good selection of Early Modern manuscripts including an entry for “complimentary verses by members from Eton College to Queen Elizabeth on her coming to windsor to escape the plague” (p. 4), medical tracts in Latin and French (MS. 12 B III p. 11) and transcripts of Scottish state papers during the reigns of James V and VI (MS. 18 B VI p. 280).
The Harley collection contains manuscripts related to politics and the workings of the government, including a treatise on the High Court of the Star Chamber (6256 p. 347), a number of items from parliament, such as the king’s speech and a petition reforming irregularities in the church from the reign of James I (6258-6260 p. 347), and various letters from officials in Queen Elizabeth’s court, including Francis Walsingham concerning the arrest of persons “suspected to be dealers in the Queen of Scots’ cause” (6991 p. 467).
Please check out our new page, Finding Manuscripts, on which you will find our helpful list, 'Alternative Routes to the British Library Collections'. Research involving manuscripts is far from paused!
The list is only a sample of manuscript catalogues available outside the British Library. If you know of a catalogue that should be included, please contact us here: https://www.memslib.co.uk/contact
We wish you all the best in your research!