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The Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts of The New York Public Library

Availability for Research Purposes

The Library safeguards nearly 300 manuscripts in this category, and they are entrusted to the Manuscripts and Archives Division and the Spencer Collection.  The hundred most significant for the history of thought were exhibited in 2005-2006, and extensively studied in The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library (New York & London, 2005).

Our priority is to preserve these manuscripts for the instruction and enlightenment of future generations.  In observing our policy of making the collection items in our keeping available to researchers, thereby aiding the advancement of knowledge, we shall permit the study of our medieval and Renaissance manuscripts under the following guidelines.

  • Prior registration is required.  Researchers wishing to consult our medieval and Renaissance manuscripts are required to request and receive permission in writing from the respective curator or deputy before visiting the Library.  Electronic application, via E-mail, is the most reliable and prompt method.
  • For manuscripts in the Manuscripts and Archives Division (e.g., NYPL MA 1 and following), apply electronically at mssref@nypl.org.  The service location for these manuscripts is the Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room for Rare Books and Manuscripts (rm. 328).  Public hours, which vary from Tuesday through Saturday, are posted on the Division's Website.
  • For manuscripts in the Spencer Collection (e.g., NYPL Spencer 1 and following), apply electronically at spnref@nypl.org and/or prnref@nypl.org.  The service location for these manuscripts is the Wallach Division Prints and Photographs Study Room (rm. 308).  Collection hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 1:00 to 6:00 P.M.
  • Researchers will be required to consult and exhaust all available resources - such as departmental files, catalogues, facsimiles, transparencies, digital images, microfilms, and the 10,000 detailed slides that the Library has for use - prior to inspecting a manuscript at first hand.  All of these surrogates are available at the Library, and some of this material may be seen electronically, via the Library's Website.
  • Direct access to the original manuscripts for individual study will be restricted to qualified scholars, with a demonstrated need to consult the manuscripts at first hand, and experience in handling such materials.
  • Certain highly fragile and extensively studied manuscripts, such as the Tickhill Psalter (NYPL Spencer 26; Splendor cat. No. 41), are not available for direct consultation.
  • On occasion, a manuscript may be in conservation or on exhibition at the Library or elsewhere, and thus not available.

Selected resources:

Substantial information about the Library's Western manuscripts is available on Digital Scriptorium, and may be consulted at http://www.scriptorium.columbia.edu

Digital images of many of our Western manuscripts may be viewed on the Library's site at http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital

Inquiries concerning obtaining copies of specific images from these manuscripts may be made to permissions@nypl.org

The 10,000 slides, made in 2004, provide extensive details from all the Western manuscripts, and may be consulted on site with the assistance of the curator or a staff member of the Manuscript and Archives Division or the Spencer Collection.

The Medici Aesop: NYPL Spencer 50, intro. Everett Fahy, trans. Bernard McTigue (New York: NYPL, 2005).  A copy may be ordered from The Library Shop.

The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at The New York Public Library, by Jonathan J. G. Alexander, James H. Marrow, and Lucy Freedman Sandler (New York & London: NYPL & Harvey Miller Publishers, 2005).

The Towneley Lectionary Illuminated for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese by Giulio Clovio, by Jonathan J. G. Alexander (London: Roxburghe Club, 1997).

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