Thanks to the patronage of The Polonsky Foundation, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library have engaged in a partnership which aimed to digitise, scientifically catalogue and showcase an outstanding collection of 800 medieval manuscripts produced between the 8th and 12th centuries.

Illuminated manuscripts from France and England of that time period demonstrate that medieval borders were regularly crossed. The medieval period in Europe is typically thought to mean that the existing cultures were stagnant and isolated from the rest of the world. But a new digitization project that brings together 800 medieval manuscripts offers a different image of the early middle ages: one of connection and exchange, where borders and geography were frequently crossed and redefined.

This new digitization is huge leap forward for medievalists and scholars. These materials and tools have opened the manuscript archive in an unprecedented way. They have the potential to usher in a range of new scholarship. But for the general public, this collection serves an even more dramatic purpose: the revision of a narrative of an isolated past. Kathleen Doyle, Lead Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library says: ‘By providing online access to the digitised versions of 800 of some of the finest of these manuscripts we hope to transform awareness of this period of close political and cultural entwinement between our two countries, when scribes moved between England, France and Normandy, working in Latin, French and English on manuscripts of unparalleled beauty and sophistication.’

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