With its more than 1400 bindings and over a thousand fragments Leiden’s collection of medieval manuscripts (up to ca. 1550) is the largest in the Netherlands.
The overviews in this chapter contain deep links to the online catalogue of Leiden University Libraries. In 2023, about 1800 summary catalogue records in Dutch were replaced by more elaborate descriptions in English. Please note that medieval manuscripts often have approximate creation dates and places, consist of two or more codicological units (with their own creation date and place) and/or contain multiple texts in various languages.
Total number of records describing medieval items in the catalogue (October 2023): 1800+ manuscripts and fragments:
- Manuscripts and fragments by origin: Low Countries (560), France (511), Apennine Peninsula (379), German countries (199), British Isles (46) — Other origins: Middle-East (9), Byzantium (8), Greece (8), Iberian Peninsula (4), Egypt (3), Russia (3), Bulgaria (1), Rhodes (1), Syria (1), Sicily (1). — Origin unknown (141).
- Manuscripts and fragments by century: 6th century (2), 7th century (1), 8th century (14), 9th century (121), 10th century (76), 11th century (102), 12th century (230), 13th century (224), 14th century (303), 15th century (823), 16th century, first half (233).
- Dated manuscripts (187): mentioned in CMD-NL: Manuscrits datés conservés dans les Pays-Bas. Catalogue paléographique des manuscrits en écriture latine portant des indications de date. Vol. 1. G.I. Lieftinck, Les manuscrits d’origine étrangère, 816-c.1550 (Amsterdam 1964); Vol. 2. J.P. Gumbert, Les manuscrits d’origine néerlandaise (XIVe-XVIe siècles) et supplément au tome premier (Leiden 1988).
- Manuscripts and fragments by language: Latin (1125), Dutch (426), Ancient Greek (234), French (66), German (43) — Other languages: Italian (7), Czech (3), Greek (3), Church Slavonic (2), Hebrew (2), Provencal (2), Russian (2), Old English (1), English (1), Breton (1), Cornish (1), Old Irish (1), Irish (1), Yiddish (1).
- Manuscripts and fragments by text genre: administration (28), artes (423), bible (168), canon law (101), classical literature/philosophy (351), historiography (262), law and regulations (75), literature (155), liturgy (120), medieval theology/philosophy (197), preaching (94), religious texts (355), roman law (46). — For manuscripts with multiple texts various subject headings may be used.
- Manuscripts and fragments by *fund and former owner (placed apart with their own series of shelfmarks): *Bibliotheca Publica Latina (718). — Vossius (459 items: 320 Latini, 87 Graeci, 11 Miscellanei, 14 Germano-Gallici, 27 Chymici). — *Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (Society of Dutch Literature) (278). — *Bibliotheca Publica Graeca (84). — Vulcanius (52). – Perizonius (49). — D’Ablaing (42). — Scaliger (34). — Gronovius (33). — Lipsius (25). — Meijers (8). — Ruhnkenius (6). — Burman (5). — In de Betouw (4). —Bibliotheca Thysiana (4). — Marchand (1). — Oudendorp (1).
- Illuminated manuscripts (475): with miniatures, historiated initials, drawings, decorated borders and initials.
- Composite manuscripts (214): containing two or more codicological units (which may have different creation dates and places) united in one binding. Some volumes also contain printed matter (6).
- Fragments: described in separate records (selection: 381), partially belonging to fragments collections (17). — Mostly taken from restored or replaced bindings (of both manuscript and printed books), kept since the 19th century. Nearly all Leiden fragments are described by J.P. Gumbert in his, Illustrated inventory of medieval manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Vol. 2. Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek BPL (Hilversum 2009).
In 2023, André Bouwman published an easily searchable pdf inventory, which links to the online catalogue for each manuscript and which can also been consulted linking from corresponding catalogue records: Inventory of Western Medieval Manuscripts Held by Leiden University Libraries.
The inventory is derived from the renewed catalogue records in English. Its first section contains for each manuscript a selection of fields from the corresponding record. Part of this information is presented again in the remainder of the inventory, in various useful combinations and indexes.
Content: Preface (p. 7) – Introduction (p. 9-22) – 1. Manuscripts by collection (p. 24-439) – 2. Manuscripts by time and space (p. 440-545) – 3. Texts by author and language (p. 546-714) – Appendix 1: Multilingual manuscripts (p. 715) – Appendix 2: Manuscripts by height, proportion, percentage of written space (p. 718-815) – Appendix 3: Manuscripts with medieval bindings (p. 816-833).
The introduction contains an extensive overview of all Leiden library catalogues printed in the years 1595-2009 and describing medieval manuscripts, with links to digital versions (p. 10-22).
Digital facsimiles of a growing number of medieval manuscripts are available in open access. They are described in separate catalogue records, with links to the scans in the repository Leiden University Libraries | Digital Collections (700+).
Furthermore, in collaboration with Brill Publishers, UBL has digitized its Codices Vossiani Latini (363 items, of which 320 medieval) and Codices Graeci et Miscellanei (216 items, of which 98 medieval). These digital facsimiles are only available (for free) to Leiden staff and students (using the online catalogue and their ULCN-account).
Medieval manuscripts are part of various *funds and collections of former owners (placed together with distinctive shelfmarks). Information about their history, scope and contents is brought together in so-called collection guides. These online resources can be searched in the online catalogue or, more directly, in the management system Leiden University Libraries | Collection Guides.
Collection guides: D’Ablaing. — In de Betouw. — *Bibliotheca Publica Graeca. — *Bibliotheca Publica Latina. — Bibliotheca Thysiana. — Burman. — Gronovius. — Lipsius. — *Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (Society of Dutch Literature). — Marchand. — Meijers. — Van Oudendorp — Perizonius. — Ruhnkenius. — Scaliger. — Vossius. — Vulcanius.
See also the collection guide on the Bibliotheca Neerlandica Manuscripta, with information on Middle Dutch manuscripts kept world wide, including Leiden. Digital versions of its manuscript descriptions – arranged by location and shelfmark – can be accessed using the BNM collection guide. Part of the BNM documentation is also available as a database (BNM-I), hosted by the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands.
Literature on codicology and palaeography (Z105-115.5), manuscript illumination (ND2289-2416) and library catalogues (Z6505-6621) is located in the Special Collections Reading Room (second floor, entrance 4, go right).
Palaeographical atlases (DOUSA 86) and printed facsimiles (DOUSA 87-88) are located in the Special Collections Reading Room (second floor, entrance 4, go left). There you will also find photo documentation of the Leiden medieval manuscripts: 68 ring binders with script specimens of nearly every codex, arranged by century and origin.
Dr Irene O’Daly (Book and Digital Media Studies, Leiden University) discusses the materiality of the codex in eight short video’s: 1. Scripts — 2. Structuring the page — 3. Discontinuous reading — 4. Traces of scribes — 5. Traces of users — 6. Bindings — 7. Composite volumes — 8. Dimensions and forms.
All manuscripts shown are available as a digital facsimile. The links can be found in the accompanying texts on YouTube.
This educational resource presents a selection of digitised manuscripts from Leiden University Libraries, organised in three thematic routes: Books for Professional Use — Liberal Arts and Education — Religion and Devotion.
Each manuscript can be viewed in high resolution and is provided with a summary that helps students understand all aspects of the production and use of manuscripts, including links to a glossary, to Wikipedia, and to specific parts of the manuscript. The study of these manuscripts is guided by a set of questions that can be answered by looking at the digitised objects.
With a codicological introduction: Quill. Books before print. Chapters: 1. Choosing a Writing Support — 2. Making Quires and Sheets — 3. Preparing the Page — 4. Copying the Text — 5. Correcting the Text — 6. Decorating the Book — 7. Binding the Book 8. Using the Book.