An image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from many institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly research.
The Digital Scriptorium (DS) is a non-commercial online image database of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, or manuscripts made in the tradition of books before printing. DS unites scattered resources from a consortium of many libraries into a union catalog for teaching and scholarly research in medieval and Renaissance studies. It provides unprecedented access to illuminated and textual manuscripts through digital cataloging records, supported by high resolution images and retrievable by various topic searches. DS enables users from the most casual to the most specialized to study the rare and valuable materials of academic, research, and public libraries. It makes available collections that are often restricted from public access and includes not only recognized masterpieces but also understudied manuscripts that have been previously overlooked for exhibition or publication.
DS fosters the public viewing of non-circulating materials otherwise available only within restricted access libraries. As a visual catalog, DS allows scholars and beginners to verify with their own eyes cataloguing information about places and dates of origin, scripts, artists, and quality. Special emphasis is placed on the touchstone materials, i.e., manuscripts signed and dated by their scribes, thus beginning the American contribution to the goal established in 1953 by the Comité international de paléographie latine (International Committee of Latin Paleography): to document photographically the proportionately small number of codices of certain origin that will serve stylistically to localize and date the vast quantities of unsigned manuscripts. DS publishes not only manuscripts of firm attribution but also ones that need the attention of further scholarship and traditionally would have been unlikely candidates for reproduction. Because it is web-based, it also allows for updates and corrections, and as a matter of form individual records in DS can and do acknowledge contributions from outside scholars.
DS encourages interaction between the academic and the library world to build a growing and reciprocally beneficial body of knowledge. DS looks to the needs of a very diverse community of specialists: medievalists, classicists, musicologists, paleographers, diplomatists, literary scholars and art historians. At the same time DS recognizes a broader user community in the public that values rare and unique works of historical, literary and artistic significance.