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Psalter of Frederick II
This remarkable illuminated psalter decorated in the Byzantine style was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily (1194–1250) for his third wife, Isabella of England (1214–41). Frederick married Isabella in 1235. By design and execution, the manuscript illuminations combine the color palette of Byzantium with the stylistic rendering of the plasticity of the human body common to the Italian school of the period. Probably executed at the scriptorium in Acri, a hill town in Calabria, the manuscript is decorated with a full-page initial letter encompassing ...
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Riccardiana Library of Florence
Dobreisho Gospel
This parchment manuscript, of which only a part has survived, is from the first quarter of the 13th century. The year 1221 was written on the manuscript at a significantly later date and may have been copied from an original colophon by a later owner. Known as the Dobreisho Gospel, the manuscript is an important witness to the history and early development of the Bulgarian language. Of particular interest is the rich illumination, including two full-page miniatures of the evangelists Luke and John. The portrait of the latter is accompanied ...
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National Library of Bulgaria
Jerusalem Delivered
La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem delivered) is a verse epic by the late-Renaissance Italian poet Torquato Tasso (1544–95). Written in the eight-line stanzas common to Italian Renaissance poetry, Tasso’s masterpiece is known for the beauty of its language, profound expressions of emotion, and concern for historical accuracy. The subject of the poem is the First Crusade of 1096–99 and the quest by the Frankish knight Godfrey of Bouillon to liberate the sepulcher of Jesus Christ. Tasso was born in Sorrento, in the Kingdom of Naples, and his interest ...
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University Library of Naples
Supplement to the Local Gazetteer of Wu Prefecture
Wujun (Wu Prefecture) is an ancient name used during the Qin and Han (221 BCE–220 CE) for the seat of Guiji (situated in present-day Suzhou). The words tu jing in the title denote an older type of local gazetteer, which first appeared during the Eastern Han (25–220 CE). It was not until the Southern Song that such works were replaced by more formal gazetteers. This printed work is a very rare Song edition. The work goes back to 1099, the second year of Yuanfu era during the reign ...
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National Central Library
Collected Songs and Verses of Li He
Li He (790–816), courtesy name Changji, was a Chinese poet of the late-Tang dynasty, known for his unconventional and imaginative style. A native of Changgu, Henan Province, Li was unsuccessful in the imperial examination. He died at age 27, having worked, despite his distant royal ancestry, as a poor minor official. About 240 of his poems survive. Although his works were admired by the late-Tang poets, none of his poems made their way into the popular anthologies, such as Tang shi san bai shou (300 Tang poems). As indicated ...
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National Central Library
The Story of the Secluded Chamber, with Li Zhuowu’s Critical Comments
You gui ji (Story of the secluded chamber), also entitled Bai yue ting ji (Story of the Moon-Worshipping Pavilion), is one of the five greatest Ming-dynasty long poetic dramas, called chuan qi. Attributed by some to Guan Hanqing (1220–1300), the Yuan playwright, and by others to Shi Hui (born 1295 or 1296), a native of Hangzhou and a Southern-style playwright at the end of the Yuan and the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the play has 40 scenes in two juan. The story takes place at the end of ...
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National Central Library
Augmented Materia Medica
This work was compiled in 1116 by Kou Zongshi (flourished 1111–17), an official in charge of purveying and examining medicinal materials. According to a later preface by Lu Xinyuan, dated 1877, Kou also served as an official responsible for military provisions and supplies in various places and became a revenue manager. Kou Zongshi found mistakes and gaps in the works by Liu Yuxi, the author of Jiayou bu zhu ben cao (Supplementary comments to materia medica printed in the Jiayou reign), and Tang Shenwei, author of Jing shi zheng ...
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National Central Library
Newly Compiled Stories on the History of the Five Dynasties with Commentaries (Incomplete Copy)
One of the popular entertainments among the common people during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) was storytelling. Historical events were particularly popular subjects. Stories often were told with the commentaries of the storytellers and thus were called ping hua (stories with commentaries). Some ping hua were published after being polished by the literati, but not many are still in existence. The author of this work is unknown. It is a collection of popular literature containing stories from the Five Dynasties (907–60), prior to the Song dynasty. It begins ...
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National Central Library
Mirror of the Saxons
More than 400 manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel (Mirror of the Saxons) survive, attesting to the wide dissemination and influence on the whole of Europe of this first law book in German. The most beautiful copies are the four illuminated manuscripts, all produced between 1295 and 1371, and now held in Heidelberg, Oldenburg, Dresden, and Wolfenbüttel. The most artistically valuable of these documents is the Dresden manuscript, preserved in the Saxon State and University Library. Its 924 image sequences on 92 pages are the most extensive of those in the four ...
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Saxon State and University Library, Dresden
Fragment of the Old Västergötland Law
Äldre Västgötalagen (Old Västergötland law) is the oldest legal text written in Old Swedish in Latin script and the oldest of Sweden’s medieval provincial laws. The law was formulated around 1220 and was used in Västergötland in western Sweden. This manuscript fragment dates to about 1240. It contains the oldest record of the law and, along with another manuscript in the holdings of the National Library of Sweden dating from the early 1290s, is the only source for the law. The two leaves come from the same manuscript and ...
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National Library of Sweden
Horologium Olomoucense
Horologium Olomoucense is a collectarium (liturgical book of collects or prayers) that is recited during the Divine Office at horae (specific times) during the day. The manuscript was written for the cathedral chapter in Olomouc in the southern part of the present-day Czech Republic before the year 1150. A famous image depicting Pope Gregory I (circa 540–604) is found at the beginning of the liturgical texts. The pope is on a throne and dictating to his friend and pupil, Petrus Diaconus, who is sitting at his feet. He is ...
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National Library of Sweden
Military Epic about the Life of Yoshitsune
Gikei ki tells a fictional story based on the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, a famous military commander of the 12th century. In the book, Yoshitsune’s elder brother Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun in the history of Japan, becomes suspicious of his younger brother’s ambition after his glorious victories in a series of battles. By order of Yoritomo, Yoshitsune is expelled from Kyoto, hounded, and finally forced to commit suicide. The tragic story of Yoshitsune has long been popular in Japan and was often described in novels and dramas ...
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National Diet Library
Buddhist Sutra “Bimashōkyō”
The hand copying of Buddhist sutras was believed to confer great merit and spiritual benefit, so that from the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century numerous manuscripts were reproduced throughout the country. In the late Heian period, there arose the Mappō (age of Dharma decline) doctrine, which held that Buddhist teaching, and consequently the protection of Buddha, would decline. At a time of religious pessimism coupled with the very real decline of the aristocracy, many court nobles sought to attain the after-death passage to the Pure Land ...
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National Diet Library
Poetry Collection
Born in what is now the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, ‘Ali ibn al-Muqarrab (1176 or 1177−1231 or 1232) had an adventurous life that included political intrigue and involvement with trade as well as literary accomplishment. Writing in the early 13th century, he is said to have been one of the last poets before modern times to have composed in the classical style. His Diwan (Poetry collection) is lauded for its historical as well as literary qualities. It is considered a primary source for geography and history as well ...
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Qatar National Library
Melk Missal
This missal, which dates to the late-12th or early 13th century, was made for the Benedictine abbey of Melk (or, possibly, Seitenstetten) in Lower Austria, as indicated by the inclusion of the patron saints of Melk, Peter and Paul, and Cholomannus (folio 212 recto). The surviving volume of a multi-volume missal, the manuscript contains only the ordinary of the mass and the "summer part," with the temporale running from Holy Saturday through the Sunday after Trinity Sunday and the sanctorale beginning with the feast of Primus and Felicianus (June 9 ...
Contributed by
Walters Art Museum
Trebizond Gospels
This Gospel book was probably made in Constantinople in the mid-12th century and is remarkable for the fine execution and monumental quality of its full-page miniatures. The opening for the Gospel of Matthew is missing, but the other three Gospels are prefaced with a pair of miniatures each: the respective Evangelist on the left and a scene from the Gospel story on the right. The combination of Saint John with the Raising of Lazarus is one found only in this manuscript. The text was copied by two scribes with distinctly ...
Contributed by
Walters Art Museum
Cosmography
Created in England in the late-12th century, this manuscript was intended to be a scientific textbook for monks. The manuscript is brief, at nine folios, and was designed as a compendium of cosmographical knowledge drawn from early Christian writers, such as Bede and Isidore, as well as the later Abbo of Fleury. Those writers, in turn, drew on classical sources, such as Pliny the Elder, for their knowledge but adapted it to be understood through the filter of Christianity. The 20 complex diagrams accompany and help to illustrate the texts ...
Contributed by
Walters Art Museum
Central Panel of the Painted Cave of Gáldar
The Painted Cave of Gáldar is in northwest Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands archipelago of Spain. It is part of a complex of pre-Hispanic caves that were rediscovered in 1862. Full archaeological excavations took place in 1987−2005. The six caves are carved out of the tufa and arranged around a central space. The first occupation of the settlement dates from the sixth century, but radiocarbon dating suggests that the cave acquired its current appearance in the late 12th century. The cave system was created by the Guanches, the ...
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Cabildo of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands
Exegetical Works
This manuscript of works by Honorius Augustodunensis (also seen as Honorius of Autun) is one of the rare examples of an illustrated commentary on the Old Testament Song of Songs, preserved mainly in manuscripts from southeastern Germany and Austria. The manuscript, written in the monastery of Benediktbeuern, Bavaria, around 1170, features a title piece and three miniatures on books two to four, that is, the full cycle of illuminations. Honorius follows the allegorical interpretation of the marriage of Christ and his Church, depicted in the title piece. In books two ...
Contributed by
Bavarian State Library
Dialogue in Praise of the Holy Cross
Dialogus de laudibus sanctae crucis (Dialogue in praise of the Holy Cross), written between 1170 and 1180, and once owned by the Benedictine monastery of Saint Emmeram in Ratisbon (present-day Regensburg), Bavaria, contains a text in praise of the Cross, which has come down only in this manuscript. The text, written by an unidentified author, is in the form of a didactic dialogue between “Magister” and “Discipulus,” the teacher and a pupil. It relates the history of salvation to the Holy Cross in the so-called typological exegetical tradition. The text ...
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Bavarian State Library
Gospel Lectionary
This gospel lectionary was created around 1130. A lectionary is a liturgical book, which—in contrast to usual gospel books containing the full texts of the gospels—comprises only those parts of the gospels that are used for the liturgical readings during the ecclesiastical year, presented in chronological order. The book features two pen-and-ink-drawn initials, several decorated initials in gold and silver ink, and four full-page miniatures, each showing one of the four Evangelists. The style and coloring of the miniatures follow a Bavarian tradition of book illumination, the so-called ...
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Bavarian State Library