The Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin has announced an online database for its medieval and early modern manuscripts collection. The collection contains 215 items going from the 11th to the 17th century. Unfortunately not all the items are digitized yet, but 27 items have been completed for a total of 7,288 digitized pages. The collection can be accessed at http://research.hrc.utexas.edu/pubmnem/.
All items in the collections, not just the digitzed ones, are available in the database. There are lots of search options including country, century, language, format, and subject. Subjects include alchemy, heraldry, cartography, music, and law. You can also get an overview of the collection via the finding aid. Search results include a thorough physical description of both the cataloged item and its contents, as well as any usage restrictions.
It took me a while to find a digitized item, but I finally came across a partial New Testament in Greek from Byzantium, circa between 1250 and 1300. I am used to online viewers for digitized collections like this so I was shocked to see the entire item in a downloadable PDF that came out to a slow-loading 115 MB, but once it was downloaded I could quickly go through the 260+ pages with ease, so maybe this was the best way to do it. I experimented with increasing the zoom on my PDF reader and the manuscript looked great — not blurry at all — even zoomed at 400%. And it was kind of neat to see that someone had doodled in the margins. Some pages in some manuscripts I looked at had an HRC watermark, which was prominent, but small enough so that it wasn’t annoying.
I can’t wait until all the items in the collections have been digitized. It looks like the items are getting digitized in ID order — I started with the URL http://research.hrc.utexas.edu/pubmnem/details.cfm?id=1 and substituted some random numbers between 1 and 20, and everything I looked that way had a downloadable PDF available. Do yourself a favor and look at the Books of Hours, and at the Dominican Processional from the 15th century. The illustrations are unbelievable.
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