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The Seville Bible
Biblia hispalense (The Seville Bible), also known as the Toletanus Codex, is a manuscript from the first half of the tenth century, in Latin written in lower-case Visigothic script by at least four copyists. The titles also appear in Hebrew, and there are notes in Arabic in the margins. The manuscript consists of booklets of eight sheets each, on parchment, with the text in three columns of 63–65 lines. Included are the texts of the Old and New Testaments, with a preface, prologues, and commentaries by Saint Jerome, Saint ...
Etymologiae (Etymology) is the best known work by Saint Isidore of Seville (circa 560–636), a scholar and theologian considered the last of the great Latin Church Fathers. It takes its name from a method of teaching that proceeds by explaining the origins and meaning of each word related to a topic. Saint Isidore drew on many different sources in his attempt to summarize all ancient knowledge and save it for posterity. The fame of the work led to it being widely copied and disseminated, and its popularity lasted even ...
The Damascus Pentateuch, from around the year 1000, is one of the oldest extant Hebrew biblical manuscripts. It includes full vocalization, accentuation, and Masoretic annotation. The manuscript is defective in its beginning, as it starts with Genesis 9:26; Exodus 18:1–23 is also missing. Written on parchment in oriental square script, the text is in three columns per page, 20 lines per column. The manuscript belonged to the Jewish community of Damascus (hence its name) until 1915, when it was acquired by the collector and bibliophile D.S ...
Dated to the tenth century, this manuscript is the oldest Armenian codex in North America and the fifth oldest among documented Armenian Gospel books. The principal colophon, on folio 2 verso, records that Sargis the priest completed the text in 415 (966). Within the framed area, the commission of the codex is described: a priest, whose name was replaced by the later owner T’oros, commissioned the work "as decoration and for the splendor of [the] holy church and for the pleasure of the congregation of Rznēr." As the codex ...
Corvey Gospel Fragment
This manuscript consists of four folios from a Gospel book that was likely made at the monastery of Corvey in western Germany during the mid-to-late tenth century. Dating to the reign of Otto I, these pages are a magnificent example of early Ottonian manuscript illumination. The heavily ornamented pages, which introduce the Gospels of Luke and John, shine with gold and jewel-like colors against dyed purple grounds. These pages combine monumental classicizing square capitals on purple grounds with rich and complex interlace. This fragment contains the opening pages of Luke ...
Collection of Texts on Mathematical Astronomy and the Natural Sciences
This manuscript is a collection of texts on mathematical astronomy and the natural sciences dating from early in the ninth century. The illuminations are mainly of astronomical content and are based on models from late antiquity. They include the occupations of the 12 months, the earliest surviving medieval illuminations of this type (folio 91 verso); an astronomical map (folio 113 verso); the constellations (folios 115 verso−121 recto); and the 12 winds (folio 139 recto). The manuscript was copied in Salzburg, apparently from a northern French exemplar, and was presumably ...
Gospels of Luke and John
This manuscript containing the gospels of Luke and John originally formed a whole with another gospel book fragment now preserved in Weimar. The Weimar manuscript contains prologues, canon tables, the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and, at the end, the argumentum (introduction) and breviarium (summary) to Luke. Each gospel begins with a portrait of the evangelist and a full-page initial. The manuscript, of high quality, is clearly the work of an important scriptorium influenced by that at Saint Gallen; it may have been written at Mainz.
This Gospel book from the Carolingian period is a product of the Mainz school of calligraphy and illumination, which was a successor to the palace (or court) school of Charlemagne. In its canon tables and portraits of the evangelists, it blends the Ottonian style from the tenth century with the traditions of the earlier Carolingian Ada group (late eighth century). The manuscript received its fine binding in the Ottonian period. Its most valuable parts are the two outstanding ivories. The baptism of Christ is represented on the front cover; on ...
This sumptuous manuscript, known as the Purple Gospel, is written almost entirely in gold and silver on purple-stained parchment. It dates from the first quarter of the ninth century. It contains architectural canon tables and decorated initials in gold and silver at the beginning of the texts of the four gospels and of the prologue to Mark. Four whole-page miniatures of scenes from the New Testament, on folios 24 and 197, were formerly thought to be Ottonian copies (early tenth to early 11th centuries) made from models from late antiquity ...
Sacramentary of Bishop Abraham
Many monasteries in Bavaria were destroyed during the devastating Hungarian invasions of Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries. In the period after the Hungarian wars, Bishop Abraham of Freising (957−94) nevertheless succeeded, despite temporary banishment, in enlarging his see, pushing ahead the mission to the Slavs, and promoting completion of the cathedral library and school in Freising. This sacramentary is the only high-quality liturgical manuscript surviving from this time, albeit in poor condition. The prominence given to Saint Corbinian identifies it as a Freising work. Obituary entries in ...
The Fulda Sacramentary typifies the structural changes that sacramentaries underwent in Carolingian times, when artistic embellishment was increasingly concentrated on the canon. The opening letter T (of Te igitur; “Thee, therefore,” the first prayer of the mass) of the sacramentary has been transformed on folio 12 recto into a picture of the crucified Christ, surrounded by four medallions depicting, respectively, the hand of God, Saint Mary, Saint John, and a priest in adoration. Executed at the Benedictine monastery at Corvey in the last third of the tenth century, the sacramentary ...
Prayerbook of Otto III
This small prayer book was once owned by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (980−1002). Although it hardly stands out when compared with other luxuriously illuminated manuscripts, it was intended for the sovereign’s private devotion and is one of only two royal prayer books from the early Middle Ages to survive. It was probably commissioned after the year 984, presumably by Archbishop Willigis of Mainz, when the four-year-old Otto was committed to the care of his mother and grandmother, the empresses Theophanu and Adelaide, after his father’s ...
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 10-11 of the 48th chapter of the Qur'an, entitled Surat al-Fath (Victory). This surah dates from the Medinan period and contains 29 verses. It describes how triumph comes from courage, faith, and patience if the believer stays true to God: anyone who violates His [God's] oath, does so to the harm of his own soul, and anyone who fulfils what he has convenanted with God, God will soon grant him a reward (48:10). The text is executed in Kufi script with black ...
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 85-88 of the 6th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat al-An'am (The Cattle). This late Meccan surah describes the nature of God and how He reveals Himself. Verses 85-88 in particular describe a number of prophets such as Jesus, Elias, and Jonah as capable of guiding believers to the "straight path" (al-sirat al-mustaqim). The text is executed in Kufi script in black ink, at six lines per page, surrounded by a gold painted frame. Verses on the fragment's recto have worn off ...
Homiliary on Gospels from Easter to first Sunday of Advent
This 10th-century manuscript from the Bergendal Collection at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto is the oldest extant copy of a book of homilies composed by Heiric (Eric) of Auxerre, France, around 865–870. Heiric, a Benedictine theologian and writer, was a monk at the Abbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre. He studied under Lupus of Ferrière, John Scotus Erigena, and Haymo of Auxerre. He was the teacher of Remigius of Auxerre and is an important representative of intellectual life in the Carolingian period. The manuscript was written, by ...
The Book on the Properties of Precious Gems
The title page identifies this manuscript as a copy of Kitab khawas al-jawāhir (The book on the properties of precious gems), written by Yaqūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī in the ninth century. The work has 25 chapters, which are titled “On the knowledge of gems in general,” “On knowledge of rubies,” “On knowledge of emeralds,” “On knowledge of lapis,” and so forth. Each of these chapters gives basic information about these precious stones and their properties, as understood at the time. Information on the pricing of gems and the location of ...
Annals of Creation
The cover of this work by an unknown author bears the title Translation of the Entire Text of the “Yao Annals of Creation.” In this bilingual text, the Dongba text is in color and the Chinese text is in black. The Dongba glyphs are ancient characters that were used to record the dialect of the western Naxi nationality centered around the Li River in Yunnan. They were developed in approximately the seventh century. The Annals of Creation reflect the understanding of the Naxi people concerning the natural world and the ...
Stele of the Army of Inspired Strategy
This rubbing of a stone stele records the inspection of the Army of Inspired Strategy by the Tang emperor Wuzong (Li Yan). The text was composed by Cui Xuan and written by Liu Gongquan, both of the Tang dynasty. The stele was erected in the third year of the Huichang era (843 A.D.), but within a century was damaged by soldiers and soon disappeared. Because the stele was erected within the Imperial Palace, rubbings were not easily taken, even when it was still intact. These Song dynasty rubbings, also ...
The Book of Times
This is a manuscript copy of Kitāb al-Azmān (The book of times; also known as Kitāb al-Azmina) by Yuḥannā Ibn Māsawayh (died circa 857), the famous physician of the Abbasid era. The work belongs to the tradition of Islamic hemerology—the study of the calendar, especially with a view to discerning the auspiciousness of carrying out various actions at a given date or time. In his introduction, the author states: "The people of knowledge and philosophy and the physicians of Persia, India, and Rūm [Asia Minor], have said that the ...
The Heliand is an epic poem in Old Saxon that was first written down in around 830–840. The poem, whose title means “savior,” recounts the life of Jesus in the alliterative verse style of a Germanic saga. At about 6,000 lines, the Heliand is the largest known work written in Old Saxon, the precursor of modern Low German. The name of the poet is unknown, but some information about him and the origins of the poem can be gleaned from a Latin preface printed by Matthias Flacius Illyricus ...
The Drogo Sacramentary
The sacramentary was a liturgical book used for prayer during the High Middle Ages, containing the prayers, prefaces, and canons for mass. Drogo (801–55), bishop of Metz, son of Charlemagne, and famous patron of his era, had a gorgeous copy of the sacramentary made in Metz around 845–55. The manuscript, which is on vellum, is the work of several artists employed by the imperial court. It is written in a clear Latin script and includes some of the most beautiful fleurons ever produced in Metz. The illumination is ...