The J. Paul Getty Museum

Getty Museum Digitized Medieval Manuscripts

One of our favorite institutions that shares digitized medieval manuscripts online is the J. Paul Getty Museum. The reasons for this are many and we will go through them in this post. But first we’ll let some images talk:

This is just a small fraction of all the Objects available on the website. There are at least 107 different digitized medieval manuscripts available and each one of them is stunning.

A Few Words on the J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum, or simply: “The Getty”, is an extremely well-known museum in California. Its evaluated 1.3 million yearly guests makes it one of the most visited museums in the United States. It is home to a sensational collection of manuscripts, started in 1983 with the acquisition of over a hundred manuscripts from Peter and Irene Ludwig, one of the greatest private collections of medieval manuscripts of that time. Nowadays, J. Paul Getty Museum almost constantly rotates exhibitions of these precious books. A very interesting article on the current activities of the museum can be found here.

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew – MS. 34, F. 172A
The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew MS. 34, F. 172A, on my wall. Like a Boss.

Accessing the Digitized Manuscripts

Navigating through the available digital manuscripts is quite easy, although there is a lack of filters (date, place). The Getty’s manuscripts are divided in

And then sorted chronologically (oldest to newest). This is not ideal but it works well, especially for the medieval enthusiast who wants to enjoy some awesome medieval miniatures. Researchers, however, might hope for those filter to be implemented soon.

Copyrights

Here you can see one of the ways we have used the images available: we made videos! One of the best aspects of the available medieval manuscripts from the J. Paul Getty Museum is the copyright with which the images are protected. The Getty shares their images under an open content program. This means that anyone is allowed to use the images in any way they please, even commercially . In our case we have used the high quality images available to make full HD videos and high quality posters.We are also using the images to make some experiments on how to navigate through a digitized medieval manuscript leaf (More on this in the following weeks…). When you choose to download an image you are taken to web page which asks you How you are going to use the image. The answer you give to this question doesn’t determine if you will be able to download or not, but it will help the J. Paul Getty Museum to optimize their service in the future.

Image Quality

The quality of the digitized manuscripts is amazing. The images you download our very high quality and in very high-resolution and this allows users to create beautiful content. The colors are balanced and show a good contrast. The sizes of the images varies greatly, but you will never find an image under 2000 px by 3000 px.

Final Thoughts

The only negative side that we were able to find is the fact that not all the manuscripts from the J. Paul Getty Museum are completely digitized. Certainly the most beautiful and impressive miniatures are present but the leaves containing only script are difficult to come by. This is a bit of a shame, especially for researchers who might be hoping for more digitized folia from the manuscripts, but we are certain that in the near future more and more digitized manuscripts will become available.

As always, you can find the link to the Getty Museum on our renewed DMMapp!

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana digitized manuscripts

Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and the 0.32%

The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is one of the world’s largest libraries in the world and is home to around 80’000 manuscripts. Of these, only 261 are digitized today (that is: 0.32%), although there is an ongoing effort to digitize more. We are going to give a look at the website where these manuscripts are kept and made available to everyone.

The link we have inserted in our DMMmaps takes the visitor directly to the list of all the available manuscripts. In all honesty, it is quite bare. One of the biggest issues of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana’s website is that there are no thumbnails available on this page. Beside the call number of the manuscript, there is no other information. This is not really a problem for researchers, who know exactly which manuscripts they want to see, but it does not help the medieval manuscript enthusiast who wants to visit the BAV digital library, to discover some of the most beautiful medieval manuscripts available online. This problem might easily be solved, since it is possible to visualize all thumbnails of any individual manuscript.

BAV-DMMmaps
The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana on the DMMmaps

Concerning lack of information, there is also no description of the content the user is visualizing. The user is given only the name of the manuscript, the call number,  the date, and the place of origin. This is also true for the miniatures. This obviously limits the enjoyment of a particular book: knowing that you are looking at a particular manuscript, which is important for this or that reason, is always a welcome plus in these kind of digitized libraries. This is even more true when it comes to the miniatures; people who have studied history of art, medieval manuscripts, or simply read the Bible, will identify easily the depicted scenes (most of the times), but, again, the casual visitor will be cut out. Clearly, describing every miniature takes time, but a short description really adds to the experience (see the Bodleian Library).

Image quality

Pal. lat. 1764 manuscript layout
One of Pal. lat. 1764’s particular layouts from the 1300’s.

The quality of the images of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is good. Four levels of zoom are available and, at maximum zoom level, the images have a resolution of circa 1400 pixels by 2000 pixels. These are not the highest resolutions we have seen in the world of digitized medieval manuscripts; we would have liked to see a resolution of at least 2000 pixels by 3000 pixels (ideally: 3000 px by 5000 as by the Getty Museum.) Nonetheless the images of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana are large enough to appreciate every detail of a certain manuscript, and perfectly usable both by researchers and enthusiasts.

 

If a remark is possible, the colors of the digitized folios seem to be a bit dull and slightly under-exposed. This doesn’t affect the enjoyment of browsing through a manuscript at all though, but might be a concern for a researcher seeking color details. All manuscripts come with a color reference card in any case.

Erembert is asking for indulgence to Saint Martin Pope
One of the cases where a description of a miniature would be useful. Reading the Latin text we understand that Erembert is asking for indulgence to Saint Martin Pope.

We have taken the liberty of selecting some of the most beautiful manuscript examples from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and sharing them with you, here on our blog. Of course, it is extremely difficult to choose one out of 261 manuscripts, so our choice must not be seen in any way as a full representation of the wealth of the digitized library. We strongly recommend to go directly on the website and start browsing around. We are sure you will discover many treasures.

A Surprise: The Copyright

full page miniature in Pal. lat. 1632
A full-page miniature in Pal. lat. 1632. Serious looking falcon. Again, the absence of a description doesn’t help the viewer understand why it is there.

One of the most surprising aspects of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana digital library is the copyright with which the digitized medieval manuscripts are protected; this Creative Commons license that, surprisingly, also allows a commercial reuse of the images. The downside is that on all the pictures of the digitized folios there is a quite evident watermark. Nothing so invasive that will obstruct the viewing of a detail or a miniature, but it is clearly noticeable. Nevertheless, it is extremely positive to see that some of the most treasured medieval manuscripts of the world in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana are made available with such a license. With a little investigation, it is possible to notice that the Heidelberg University Library did the digitizing of the “Palatini” manuscripts ( a majority of the available digitized manuscripts.) This library already shares its own images under the same license. We hope that many other institutions will follow this example.

Final Words

two figures (unidentified) together with pens trials
A surprise at the end of Pal. lat. 18: two figures (unidentified) together with pens trials.

261 digitized manuscript is just a small fraction of the wealth that is in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, nevertheless, it is a good start. We are looking forward to the day when the digitization effort will have digitized all the manuscripts. Knowing that those days are possibly years in the future, the current situation is good enough, for now.

There are small improvements that, we believe, could be implemented on the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana website:

  • Thumbnails on the digitized manuscripts homepage.

Although not essential, it might attract more casual visitors.

  • Higher resolution images at maximum zoom.

As it has been mentioned the resolution is high, but could be higher. When it comes to digitization image quality: “melius abundare quam deficere”.

  • Removing the watermark from the pictures.

What is the worse that can happen to a digitized manuscript? That it gets printed out? That it is featured in a post? The watermarks are not as invasive as stamps, and in this case they are not that invasive, but the images would be better without.

  • Adding descriptions to the manuscripts and to the miniatures.

This would help both the occasional visitor and scholars.

In addition, obviously, more manuscripts!

A full page miniature of Christ
A full-page miniature of Christ from the early 9th century CE. Pal. lat. 220

Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel (HAB)

Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel

 

The Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel (HAB) is a German library, located in the heart of the country, not too far from Hannover. Founded in 1572 it is now home to 900,000 books and 734 digitized manuscripts. There are 16 different collections to browse through, plus several manuscripts coming from other 10 institutions. Every collection has a brief description of its contents: how many manuscripts are in the collection, how many of these are medieval, in which languages there are written, how old they are (oldest and newest,) their provenance, and a list of the digitized manuscripts.

Herzog August Bibliothek’s Medieval Manuscripts Highlights

As we mentioned earlier on, the Herzog August Bibliothek is home to hundreds of medieval manuscripts. Choosing which to highlight from a wealth of 734 digitized manuscripts is extremely difficult. Here’s a small selection. As you can see, the quality of the images is very high: it is possible to zoom in 3 times on the website, to images that have a resolution of 2000 px x 2600 px, at 300 dpi, and at the highest level the image results still sharp and full of details. The colors are balanced and the contrast appears to be correct. Navigating through a digitized manuscript is easy: besides the classical single leaf view, you have the possibility to have an overview of all the digitized parts (leaves, binding, boards, etc.) While the manuscripts are described, there is no description of the miniatures you’re looking at. So, unless you are an expert in codicology or Biblical events, you might have a hard time understanding what is in front of your eyes.

Otto Adelheid Evangeliar
Cover of the Otto-Adelheid-Evangeliar with episodes from the life of Christ: Birth, Baptism, Crucifiction and Deposition.
Cod. Guelf. 16 Aug. 2°, Evangeliar
Cod. Guelf. 16 Aug. 2°, Evangeliar, made in Toursand dated 834-843. Incipit “Liber Generationis…”
Christ in Mandorla.
Cod. Guelf. 521 Helmst. Front Binding, Christ in Mandorla.
Baptism of Jesus
Cod. Guelf. 521 Helmst. Full page illumination representing the Baptism of Jesus.

The Website’s Navigability

Overall, the whole experience of browsing through the Herzog August Bibliothek digitized library is quite enjoyable. There are some issues though: the way the manuscripts are organized isn’t extremely clear and, sadly, it is not possible to sort them by date or by provenance. The website loads fast and looks relatively good. It is possible to view a miniature of the manuscript you want to look at, and once you have access to it, you can have an overview of all the manuscript thanks to thumbnails. The website allows you to choose between German and English languages, but the English part of the website appears not to be working at the moment: when choosing English you are able to visit only the homepage; when you choose any of the manuscripts collections of the HAB, nothing is loaded. Using the German website, instead, you are able to freely browse through the collections. Luckily there is Google translate, so this is really not a big problem.

Copyrights

One last remark: among the many excellent features of the Herzog August Bibliothek there is the copyright under which the images are made available: Creative Commons’ CC BY-SA 3.0 DE. This is an extremely flexible license that allows blogs like this one to create posts and videos to highlight the treasures in the library.

Have fun browsing! Let us know which treasures you discover and which is you favorite manuscript from this library!

 

The Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum (MDZ)

While testing the Standard map yesterday evening, I randomly clicked one of the pins to check if everything was working as intended. I ended up on the Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum (MDZ) website and started giving a look around. As imaginable, after five minutes I was drooling for the quantity of amazing manuscripts that you can find on this website.

The Treasure Bindings at the MDZ

It is difficult to choose what to feature from the Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum. There are at least 2016 digitized medieval manuscripts ranging from the 7th century to the 14th century, plus many (guessing another thousand or more) from the 15th and 16th century. The MDZ possesses many gems within these books that it is simply impossible to find them all and post them here, so I chose to feature the treasure binding that I was able to find. Enjoy!

MDZ Evangeliar - BSB Clm 16003, Passau, um oder kurz nach Mitte 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 16003]
Evangeliar – BSB Clm 16003, Passau, um oder kurz nach Mitte 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 16003]
Evangeliar - BSB Clm 9475, Niedersachsen (Hamburg-Bremen?), 2. Drittel 11. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 9475]
Evangeliar – BSB Clm 9475, Niedersachsen (Hamburg-Bremen?), 2. Drittel 11. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 9475]
Heinrich Römisch-Deutsches Reich, Kaiser, II: Evangeliar - BSB Clm 4454, Reichenau, Anfang 11. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 4454]
Heinrich Römisch-Deutsches Reich, Kaiser, II: Evangeliar – BSB Clm 4454, Reichenau, Anfang 11. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 4454]
Evangeliar - BSB Clm 4451, Mainz, 2. Viertel 9. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 4451 - BSB-Hss Clm 4451]
Evangeliar – BSB Clm 4451, Mainz, 2. Viertel 9. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 4451 – BSB-Hss Clm 4451]
Sakramentar - BSB Clm 10077, [S.l.] Nordwestdeutschland (Fuldaische Schule), 3. Drittel 10. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 10077]
Sakramentar – BSB Clm 10077, [S.l.] Nordwestdeutschland (Fuldaische Schule), 3. Drittel 10. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 10077]
Sakramentar - BSB Clm 10077, [S.l.] Nordwestdeutschland (Fuldaische Schule), 3. Drittel 10. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 10077]
Sakramentar – BSB Clm 10077, [S.l.] Nordwestdeutschland (Fuldaische Schule), 3. Drittel 10. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 10077]
Evangelistar - BSB Clm 16002, Passau, um 1170 - 1180 [BSB-Hss Clm 16002]
Evangelistar – BSB Clm 16002, Passau, um 1170 – 1180 [BSB-Hss Clm 16002]
Evangeliar - BSB Clm 28321, Tegernsee, Frühes 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 28321]
Evangeliar – BSB Clm 28321, Tegernsee, Frühes 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 28321]
Evangeliar - BSB Clm 28321, Tegernsee, Frühes 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 28321]
Evangeliar – BSB Clm 28321, Tegernsee, Frühes 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 28321]
Evangeliar - BSB Clm 28321, Tegernsee, Frühes 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 28321]
Evangeliar – BSB Clm 28321, Tegernsee, Frühes 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 28321]
Evangelia aliquot - BSB Clm 2938, [S.l.], 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 2938]
Evangelia aliquot – BSB Clm 2938, [S.l.], 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 2938]
Evangelia aliquot - BSB Clm 2938, [S.l.], 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 2938]
Evangelia aliquot – BSB Clm 2938, [S.l.], 12. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 2938]
 Hieronymus, Sophronius Eusebius / Eusebius Caesariensis: Evangelia quatuor cum prologis et capitulis - BSB Clm 6832, [S.l.], 11. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 6832]
Hieronymus, Sophronius Eusebius / Eusebius Caesariensis: Evangelia quatuor cum prologis et capitulis – BSB Clm 6832, [S.l.], 11. Jh. [BSB-Hss Clm 6832]

The overall browsing experience through the MDZ is satisfying. The images are big and of very good quality: not too dark, not too bright. There are some things that could be improved:

  • Ability to select manuscripts only.
  • The possibility to see more than just five miniatures at a time.
  • Creative Commons copyrights.

I literally just scratched the surface in this post. As you can imagine, every cover presented here hides a digitized illuminated manuscript behind it. Plus, these are just five or six medieval manuscripts out of thousands of them. I strongly advise that you jump into the MDZ and randomly browse. Who knows which treasure unseen for years you might come across. Have fun discovering!

Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen-Nürnberg

Minor Prohets as Harbingers of Jesus

20 Beautiful Digitized Medieval Manuscripts from the Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen-Nürnberg

We have received an email containing a link to 20 digitized medieval manuscripts from Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany. We have added them to the DMMmaps (Only the Standard one, for now.)

The link was sent us by Mrs Gisela Glaeser. The email contained a brief description of the housing institution:

The University Library of Erlangen-Nuremberg houses about 700 medieval manuscripts. These manuscripts originate from the Cistercian Monastery of Heilsbronn, the Franciscan Monastery St. Jobst (near Bayreuth), the palace library of Ansbach, and the University Library of Altdorf. They were transferred to Erlangen in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We gave a brief look at the digitized manuscripts, and we are very excited to say that there is a wealth of beauties contained in them. We are posting a few of the highlights we have discovered, but there is so much more to be seen.

Enjoy exploring!

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Scuba divers, 16th century... Kriegsbuch - UER MS.B 26
Scuba divers, 16th century…
Kriegsbuch – UER MS.B 26
Gear for Scuba divers, 16th century... Kriegsbuch - UER MS.B 26
Gear for Scuba divers, 16th century…
Kriegsbuch – UER MS.B 26
When you are not ready for scuba diving, yet. 16th Century. Kriegsbuch - UER MS.B 26
When you are not ready for scuba diving, yet. 16th Century. Kriegsbuch – UER MS.B 26
Front Cover - Quattuor Evangelia - UER MS 9
Front Cover – Quattuor Evangelia – UER MS 9
Front Cover - Quattuor Evangelia - UER MS 10 / 1
Front Cover – Quattuor Evangelia – UER MS 10 / 1

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Minor Prohets as Harbingers of Jesus
Minor Prohets as Harbingers of Jesus – Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen-Nürnberg MS 1

Beautiful, aren’t they? Let us know what you think in the comment section below! Also, if you know any other repository of digitized medieval manuscript missing from the DMMmaps data, let us know. Send us an email through our send us a tip page, or write a comment.