Lines of beauty: British Library’s medieval manuscripts go digital

The British Library aims to digitise its 25,000 medieval manuscripts, so readers around the world can see them.

By Alice Fishburn

 Nothing brings a book of 900-year-old parchment to life as much as realising that you can still see the hair follicles of the unfortunate beasts who gave up their hides for it. The illuminated “Silos Apocalypse” manuscript may date from 1091, grapple with the end of the world and contain page after page of miniatures depicting devils, foxes, snakes and the angel of the abyss. But it is the marks on that long-dead animal skin that make its history really hit home.

folliclesThe book is part of the British Library’s collection of medieval manuscripts. One of the greatest in the world, it features 25,000 books dating from before 1600, as well as numerous medieval charters and papyri. Some are the sole copy in existence, others are worth millions of pounds (how do you value something that is literally written in gold?). The only way for scholars or the rest of us to view them is via a pilgrimage up the Euston Road in London and into the reading room or gallery…

About Sinai

The admin of this website, an evangelical digital humanist, still aspiring to geekdom. In daylights I work as consultant to JPRESS, the Historical Jewish Press project (, teach Digital Humanities and Conceptual history at the Hebrew University and Bar Ilan University and I am editor of Contributions to the History of Concepts (