Gallica BnF

Searching a library full of beautiful manuscripts and more. Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France […]

Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), and the national aggregator for collections held in French cultural heritage institutions. The available collections consist of printed materials (books, journals, newspapers, printed music, and other documents ), graphic materials ( engravings, maps, photographs, and others), sound recordings. And of course not to forget: Medieval Manuscripts!

I love Gallica in particular for viewing this beautiful manuscripts. These al can be seen in a very good and high resolution images. A huge treasure for lovers of medieval manuscripts is available in this way, all online and for everyone.

Image from a Psalter with glosses.

As a lover of manuscripts these days, you are privileged with the many digital possibilities. A few mouse clicks and you can quietly view and admire the treasures of many centuries of miniature art in manuscripts at home. While confronting the real thing is always preferable, again that is not for all of us. Apart from that, exhibited works are only partially visible, often no more than two opened pages. At home, if such a work has been digitised, you can browse it quietly and there is no one waiting for you to finish like at an exhibition. Or worse you can barely reach it. And yes those masterpieces are otherwise accessible only to academics and rightly so, given the fragility of the works.

Adoration of the Magi, Book of hours

Another big advantage is that we now have the opportunity to view all those works in colour. The masterpieces, but also works of ‘lesser’ quality. It is hard to imagine that many academics and researchers, spent decades doing their work with black-and-white images of the colourful representations from medieval manuscripts. If you look at the old catalogues, you can still see examples of this.

By the way, it is still not so easy to look for a good image when it comes to colours. If you search for a particular depiction with a search engine, you often come across it in different colours. One a bit brighter, a bit cooler, fainter etc than the other(s). Which of these then most closely approximates the original?

Luckily, then, there are the libraries that often offer a wonderful, high-quality collection of medieval manuscripts digitally. Although there are several examples of these, this time I would like to mention the site of the National Library in Paris: ‘GALLICA’. The reason is that I myself have enjoyed using it for many years. The collection is extraordinarily rich, 163744 (!) digitised manuscripts alone, not all illuminated and from the Middle Ages of course. Furthermore, you can find and consult many book titles, videos, maps, audio tapes, newspapers and magazines.

Een paar mogelijkheden:’%20heures%20flamande

King Solomon’s justice.

Unfortunately, Gallica is only in French, although there is an English homepage but if you click further it is all French. Still, it is worth making the search your own a bit, you get a lot in return. The most beautiful images can be downloaded just like that and of high quality. Even entire works can be downloaded,with the only restriction that you do not use it for commercial purposes.