Illuminated Manuscript Collection (Princeton University Library)

XENOPHON, CYROPAEDIA; DETAIL, INITIAL C, C. 1460, PRINCETON UNIVERITY LIBRARY, MS KANE 22. IMAGE AND DATA FROM: INDEX OF CHRISTIAN ART, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

The Index of Medieval Art, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University, has contributed nearly 3300 images of manuscripts to the Artstor Digital Library in partnership with the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. The selection includes miniatures, historiated initials, and other examples of manuscript illumination and illustration.

In 2001, with multi-year grant support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Index of Christian Art (now Index of Medieval Art), Princeton University, launched a project in collaboration with the Manuscripts Division to create up-to-date cataloging for approximately 400 of more than 500 Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts preserved in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. While the Library is celebrated for Western manuscripts, both late medieval and vernacular (especially Middle English and Old French), others — many of which were unpublished — range from the 5th to the 16th centuries, making the collection one of the most comprehensive in the country.  As part of the project, illuminated leaves from many of the manuscripts were photographed, digitized, and classified by the Index. These images were then added to their online database, which, together with their extensive photographic archive, presents information about more than 200,000 examples of medieval art (classified as the “Long Middle Ages”) from apostolic times to 1500 A.D. Note: The Mellon project did not include Byzantine, Persian, and other illuminated manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, nor the significant collection of Western and Byzantine manuscripts in the Scheide Library, a separate division of the Department.

The Manuscripts Division incorporated portions of the Index's descriptive data into an illustrated catalog of both illuminated and text manuscripts: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library, by Don C. Skemer; with contributions by Adelaide Bennett, Jean F. Preston, William P. Stoneman, and the Index of Christian Art (Department of Art and Archaeology and the Princeton University Library, in association with Princeton University Press, 2013). Available from Princeton University Press.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library is dispersed among several libraries with holdings that comprise approximately 200,000 printed works, 30,000 linear feet of textual materials from cuneiform tablets to contemporary manuscripts, and a wealth of prints, drawings, photographs, maps, coins, etc. The Manuscripts Division is responsible for an estimated 12,500 linear feet of materials spanning five millennia and representing works from all parts of the world, with strengths in Western Europe, the Near East, the United States, and Latin America. This includes a significant collection of Western manuscripts in Latin, Romance and Germanic languages, and Middle English, as well as Byzantine and post-Byzantine Greek manuscripts.