Carolingian Manuscripts Digitized for Europeana Regia in Reims, Amiens and Valenciennes

Throughout the second half of 2011, 131 Carolingian manuscripts were digitized in Reims, Amiens and Valenciennes in cooperation with the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), as part of the Europeana Regia project.

This operation was made possible through the active participation of the three public libraries and the commitment of the three departments at the BnF which were involved: the Departments of Manuscripts, of Preservation and of Cooperation.

This is a novel experience in two respects:

From a technical point of view, it allowed for the digitization of the manuscripts within the public libraries where they are currently held and the integration of the corresponding catalogue records and digital documents into the technical workflow at the BnF. Once integrated, quality control, and production and financial follow-ups were carried out by the teams at the Department of Manuscripts and the Department of Preservation.

Azentis, the project leader for the digitization of the special collections at the BnF, was responsible for digitizing these manuscripts.

Secondly, from a legal point of view, this operation required the establishment of an original contract system by the Department of Cooperation at the BnF.

Bibliothèque municipale de Reims

Azentis first set up their off-site digitization workshop in Reims, where 53 manuscripts were photographed from 27th July to 15th September 2011, to produce 16 584 images. Three of these manuscripts are currently available in Gallica and the rest will be added shortly.

Noteworthy among these 53 manuscripts is Ms. 11, a Gospel book from Reims written in gold and silver on purple pages. Only one of the original full-page miniatures of this superb book remains, however: the incipit page for the Gospel of Saint John. Ms. 7 is another interesting example: this beautiful Gospel book was produced during the second phase of illumination in Reims, which corresponds to Hincmar’s tenure as bishop (845-882). This decoration is remarkable for its palette of dark and saturated colours (dark red, violet, dark green, dark blue, etc.).

Bibliothèques d’Amiens Métropole

In Amiens, the digitization of 18 Carolingian manuscripts (4572 images) began on 13th October and was completed in early November 2011. Ten of these manuscripts are already accessible in Gallica and the remaining eight will be added over the coming weeks.

Ms. 18, a Psalter from Corbie is particularly interesting for its rare historiated initials. This codex is one of the very earliest examples of this type of illustration in the West, in which elements of Insular, Middle-Eastern and Byzantine decoration can be discerned.

Bibliothèque multimédia de Valenciennes

The workshop was then installed at the Bibliothèque multimédia de Valenciennes, where digitization began on 9th November 2011. Sixty manuscripts are in the process of being digitized, which will result in approximately 15 400 images. Another eight manuscripts were digitized at the Azentis workshop at the BnF (Richelieu Site), which makes a total of 68 manuscripts from the Valenciennes collections that will be digitized for Europeana Regia. These eight manuscripts are already online.

Among these 68 Carolingian manuscripts is Ms. 99, an illustrated version of the Apocalypse from the early 10th century. This remarkable example contains 39 miniatures in ink with colour highlighting, of which 37 are full-page. Ms. 150 was also selected for the project. This collection of the sermons of Gregory of Nazianzus is particularly well-known for the poem that follows them: the Cantilène de sainte Eulalie, is the first literary text written in French (late 9th century).

Related articles:


adding manuscripts from three French libraries

How quickly will all newly digitized manuscripts appear at Europeana Regia? As for now (February 14) I can see only a few of them. The importance of these additions should not distract attention of the fact that many digitized manuscripts of the five man project libraries still do not appear here. Good luck with realizing all project goals!

Re: adding manuscripts from three French libraries

All of the manuscripts selected for the project will be online by 30th June 2012. We will be adding them to the website progressively over the coming months. There are currently 509 manuscripts from the five partner libraries online: they are not yet available in all languages, as translation of the records is still in progress, but many of them can be consulted in English or French. 

The manuscripts from Reims, Amiens and Valenciennes are part of the original 874 which were proposed for the project. This number also includes the two manuscripts from the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (online here) as well as others from the Bibliothèques municipales in Angers, Besançon, Bourges, Grenoble, Louviers and Rouen, as well as the Bibliothèque Mazarine. These manscripts will also be added to the website this spring.