Tag Archives: medieval

RESOURCE: medieval art in CORSAIR, the Morgan Library’s catalog

Scholars looking for medieval illuminations to illustrate their arguments need look no further than the Morgan Library.  The Morgan has digitized and cataloged every image in its vast holdings of medieval manuscripts.  While an image search can be made in CORSAIR, the general catalog of manuscripts and printed books, there is a specific area of the site for searching solely the medieval and Renaissance images in the collection.

Find images in a number of ways:

  • by manuscript number (e.g. MS M.25, selected from a drop-down menu)
  • search by subject term (e.g. archer)
  • browse by category of manuscript (e.g. psalter), by country of origin,  and by century (also, both, selected from a drop-down menu)

Browsing by manuscript is also possible.

Results of searches display in a vertical list or as a "lightbox" grid, five panel across. The cataloging metadata for each image is extensive, and there are often multiple views of a given illumination. 

For example, the page below, a single folio from a twelfth-century English psalter (MS M.724):

also offers four additional detailed images of the upper half of the page and of selected panels, such as this closer look at the third panel in the top row, or "zone":

with extensive accompanying description:

3a) Moses: Burning Bush, and Moses, Miracle of Rod changed to Serpent — Beside burning bush, serpent crawls toward Moses as Shepherd, with head draped, stands with leprous right hand raised, beside five sheep on hill.

3b) Moses: Miracle of Rods, and Aaron: Miracle of Rods — Pharaoh, crowned, seated on cushioned bench, extends right hand toward Moses, with rod in left hand, and Aaron; three serpents on ground at their feet; behind Aaron, two men, possibly magicians.

Scenes in frames decorated with abstract ornament.

Clicking through to the CORSAIR record for this image, one can see the highly granular subject analysis applied to the image:

Psalters –England –Canterbury –Illustrations. 1155-1160.

Pharaoh –commanding Shiphrah and Puah.

Crown –worn by Pharaoh.

Arms and Armor –Sword.

Furniture –Bench.

Jochebed 2. Scene.

Moses –Birth.

Moses –in Bulrushes.

 Furniture –Bed.

Moses –brought to Daughter of Pharaoh.

Moses –Child at Court of Pharaoh.

Crown –worn by Moses as Child.

Furniture –Throne.

Moses –Burning Bush.

Moses –Miracle of Rod changed to Serpent.

Moses –Leprous Hand.

Moses –as Shepherd.

Moses –Miracle of Rods.

Aaron –Miracle of Rods.

Figure, Male –Magician.


For further information on searching CORSAIR, or finding medieval images, please feel free to contact Karen Green, the librarian for Ancient & Medieval History.

New Books in Butler Provide a Different View of the Middle Ages

Challenge your pre-conceptions about the Middle Ages (don’t you call them Dark!) with books recently added to the Butler Library collections.

Motherhood Religion and Society in Medieval Europe  Motherhood, religion, and society in medieval Europe, 400-1400 is a collection of essays, edited by Oxford University’s Conrad Leyser and Lesley Smith, that honors the work of scholar Henrietta Leyser (appropriately enough, Conrad’s mother).  In works such as Medieval Women: a social history of women in England, 450-1500, Leyser sought to bring women out from behind the shadow cast by the towering male political and ecclesiastical figures of most medieval historiography.  In this Festschrift collection, a wide range of scholars examine aspects of medieval motherhood from Augustine’s somewhat conflicted relationship with his mother Monica, to the question of whether medieval mothers taught their children to read, to the primacy of noblewoman Joan de Mohun in a 14th-century French-language chronicle.

Representing medieval genders and sexualities in Europe  Another new acquisition is Representing medieval genders and sexualities in Europe: construction, transformation, and subversion, 600-1530, likewise a collection of essays, this time inspired in part by a 2005 meeting of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference.  A nice array of female scholars explore male saints’ virginity, female power through two Flemish countesses, and the way the imagery on Italian “birth trays”—painted trays given to celebrate a birth—confounds traditional gender roles by showing women in dominant behavior.

Sin and filth in medieval culture  And now for something completely different: Martha Bayless’ Sin and filth in medieval culture: the devil in the latrine.  This title made me think of the line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “He must be a king; he hasn’t got shit all over him.”  Bayless looks past the predominant iconography of medieval spirituality to look at omnipresent “emblems of material corruption”: “Excrement was not merely used as a figure of speech but was central to a popular medieval metaphysics…it embodied sin.”  Her subtitle, “the devil in the latrine,” is quite literal; she examines the “moral connotations of filth within a theological framework.”

So, stop by Butler to check out some unexpected views of medieval history—and ask Karen Green, the librarian for Ancient & Medieval History and Religion, to help you find others!

Medieval Studies: Finding Secondary Sources Online

There are several resources online for identifying secondary literature: articles, books, dissertations, etc.  It is prudent to take advantage of all of these resources for a given topic, rather than relying on a single resource to provide all possible results.
Chained library, Hereford Cathedral
International Medieval Bibliography Online
Bibliography de Civilisation Médiévale
The International Medieval Bibliography (IMB) and the Bibliography de Civilisation Médiévale (BCM) index articles and monographs, respectively.  They are cross-searchable from a single interface.  The IMB covers all aspects of medieval studies within the date range of 400 to 1500 for the entire continent of Europe,  and for the Christian Middle East and North Africa, indexing articles beginning in 1967.  The BCM indexes monographs in the same areas, beginning in 1957.
Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance
The Iter Bibliography indexes a wide range of journals and essay collections in all scholarly disciplines for the period 400 to 1700.  The main page of the Iter Gateway offers a wide variety of bibliographical tools and e-books of interest to those studying the late medieval and early modern periods.
Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index
A free resource that indexes journal articles, book reviews, and essay collections on the topic of women, gender, and sexuality for Europe and the Christian Middle East and North Africa in the years from 450 to 1500.
JSTOR provides full-text PDFs of over 1000 journals in over 60 disciplines.  Coverage of each title begins with volume 1 and continues to a rolling wall of approximately five years ago.  As a result, JSTOR is not a good resource for current scholarship.  Searching in JSTOR is best suited for very specific events, places, or people.
ProQuest Digital Dissertations
The bibliographies of dissertations are extremely useful.  This database allows searching of titles and abstracts for nearly every American dissertation since 1861.  Dissertations deposited since 1995 may well be available in PDF format.  Foreign dissertations may be requested via Interlibrary Loan from the Center for Research Libraries.

 For more information on any of these resources, on supplementing these with print resources, or on research in medieval studies generally, please contact:

Karen Green
Karen Green
Ancient & Medieval History and Religion Librarian


Digitale Sammlungen: Riches from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

E-books in CLIO have gotten a lot snazzier.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB) has been digitizing thousands upon thousands of their rare book holdings, and these free e-books are all findable in the Columbia Libraries catalog.  These BSB records have been gathered into a collection called "Digitale Sammlungen."

Thus far there are over 28,000 of the BSB records in CLIO.  The collection includes medieval manuscripts, early printed books, and recent secondary materials.  Some, but not all, are in full color.  The cataloging information is brief, so search techniques need to be creative!

Try one of these keyword searches–some of the results may be found in the images below (be sure to include all the quotation and question marks):

"digitale sammlungen" concilia?
"digitale sammlungen" augustin?


1512 bull from Pope Julius II    Augustine, De consensu evangelistarum, 12th century

Above, on the left, a 1512 printed edition of a bull from Pope Julius II; on the right, a page from a 12th-century manuscript of Augustine’s De consensu evangelistarum.

There are a variety of ways to search this collection.  Be sure to Ask a Librarian if you need assistance!

Medieval Studies: Finding Primary Sources Online

Augustine, De civitate Dei, S. XV; Columbia RBML Plimpton ms 47, f. 20vThe Libraries subscribe to a wide number of resources that provide access to Latin texts of the Middle Ages.  Here are some you might find useful (this is a selection, not a comprehensive list).
You can bookmark the URLs below for use from any location: 

Patrologia Latina: the full-text database
An electronic edition of the 200+ volumes of Migne’s Patrologia Latina, containing writings of the Fathers of the Church and other churchmen.  Authors range from Tertullian (†220) to Pope Innocent III (†1216).  In Latin.

Library of Latin Texts
Beginning with the authors contained in the Corpus Christianorum (both Series Latina and Continuatio Medievalis), and expanded to include those of Roman antiquity as well as the post-medieval Church, the LLT contains texts from the beginning of Latin literature (Livius Andronicus, 240 BC) through to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).  In Latin.

Acta Sanctoruma: the full-text database
The catalogue of Christian saints, from the first martyr through the counter-Reformation, with texts presented in chronological order by feast day.  In Latin.

Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH)
A selection of texts tracing the history of Germany from its Frankish beginnings through the late middle ages, from the MGH’s five divisions: Scriptores, Leges, Diplomata, Epistolae, and Antiquitates.  In Latin. 

The full electronic MGH, without an English-language interface, may be found here.

Medieval Travel Writing
A collection of medieval manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries, featuring accounts of journeys to the Holy Land, India and China.  In Latin, French, German, Italian, and Spanish, with supporting materials in English.

Medieval Family Life
Full-color images of the original medieval manuscripts that comprise these letter collections of the Paston, Cely, Plumpton, Stonor, and Armbrugh families, along with full-text searchable transcripts from printed editions.  In 15th-century English, with supporting materials in modern English.

Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online
Digitized editions of texts concerning economic, political, legal, and ecclesiastical history (e.g. treasury accounts, chronicles, papal registers). Most are from England, Ireland, and Scotland.  Primarily in Latin.

For information on additional full-text resources, assistance in navigating these databases, or general reference assistance, please contact:

Karen Green
Karen Green
Ancient & Medieval History and Religion Librarian

New database: Medieval Family Life

Just added to the Columbia Libraries roster of medieval resources, Medieval Family Life contains scanned images of 15th- and 16th-century correspondence along with full transcriptions.  The papers of the Paston, Cely, Plumpton, Stonor and Armbrugh families are accompanied by additional resources such as concurrent historical and family chronologies, an interactive map, family trees, and many more.

The letters are useful for, among other disciplines, social, political, and economic history, women’s studies, and as aides for late-medieval palaeography training.

Medieval Family Life

Bookmark http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio7992371 or search for "Medieval Family Life" in the Libraries Databases listings.

For questions, contact the Ancient & Medieval History and Religion Librarian, Karen Green, at klg19@columbia.edu.