British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts image

Descriptions and images of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the British Library, one of the richest collections in the world


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The Online Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts is a searchable database of some of the western illuminated manuscripts in the British Library. The Library holds one of the richest collections of medieval and renaissance manuscripts in the world, and aims to provide access to images and information about its manuscripts to students, scholars, and the general public.

The Catalogue includes descriptions and images of western manuscripts with pictorial and decorative embellishments, from fully painted miniatures to decorated initials. Because it includes such a wide range of material, it serves as a useful resource for those working in a variety of disciplines.


This resource is of interest to many scholars in manuscript studies. The British Library holds one of the richest collections of medieval manuscripts in the world. At November 2011, the Catalogue included 35,661 images from 4,231 different manuscripts.

The manuscript descriptions can be searched or browsed by keyword, manuscript collection and number, author, scribe, place of origin, dates, codicological information and so on. Many of the manuscript descriptions are accompanied by extensive selections of high quality images. In addition there is a glossary of terms and virtual exhibitions covering various aspects of the library's holdings.

The full text of images is not searchable. A few important collections are not yet included in the Catalogue.

Introductory reading

McKendrick, Scot et al. Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination. London: British Library, 2011.

Technical Methods

The online digital Catalogue is based on an inventory of manuscripts by British Museum curators in 1997, surveying the entire manuscripts collection.

About the project

The Online Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts was initiated in 1997-98 and launched in 2003. It has been developed in several phases with a number of partners and funders including the Getty Foundation, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of London.


Contact page

Search Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Source Types

  • Literary Manuscripts


  • Manuscript Descriptions


  • scribal cultures
  • illuminations


  • English
  • Latin
  • French
  • Greek


  • Free

Time Period



British Library

Cite this page:

"Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts" Manuscripts Online (, version 1.0, 28 May 2024),