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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CLA/Lowe, vHMML, Films, and all that

 As many of my readers will know, HMML (the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library; started a two-year project nearly three months ago to create a suite of tools known as vHMML (or "virtual HMML"; find more details about the project at:  Within the scope of this project is the development of image galleries and tutorials to aid students and scholars working with early scripts and manuscripts.

Sixth-century Uncial fragment from the Historisches Archiv der Stadt Koeln (Germany--HMML 37172)--CLA 1171.

Integral to this project is access to images of actual scripts and early materials.  To that end, HMML has been digitizing and identifying a large number of manuscripts and manuscript fragments from its own collections, so that these can be made available online.  We have also searched through our digital files to make materials more accessible to scholars and the general public, including the addition of over 18,000 color images from our microfilm collection ( However, most of our microfilm is not in color, but black-and-white.

Recto of sixth-century fragment in Uncial script from Goettweig Abbey (Austria--HMML 3791)--CLA **1286a.

Verso of sixth-century fragment in Uncial script from Goettweig Abbey (Austria--HMML 3791)--CLA **1286a.

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library started in 1965 with the primary mission to preserve manuscripts and manuscript culture through photographic means.  Over the past 47 years HMML has assembled one of the largest collections of manuscript images in the world (over 90,000 manuscripts on microfilm and more than 30,000 digitally photographed). It was back to this collection that I turned to identify potential candidates for the study of early Western manuscripts.  While HMML does not have a huge number of Latin manuscripts earlier than the tenth century, there are an interesting examples from the fifth to ninth centuries in Uncial, Pre-Caroline, Caroline, and other scripts. Today I would like to present some of these in scaled-down versions from the HMML microfilms.

The first issue to address was the quick identification of early manuscripts.  The most famous (and useful) resource for early Latin scripts is a collection assembled over several decades by Elias Avery Lowe (1879-1969), whose Codices Latini Antiquiores ("CLA") is the first stop for Latin paleographers still today.  Over the course of eleven volumes plus a supplement, Lowe recorded and produced samples from early Latin manuscripts from across Europe and beyond. Due to the constraints of the day when his volumes were produced, the CLA only has tightly cropped samples that do not include the entire fragment, much less complete manuscripts when they exist.

Irish majuscule in a fragment from the
Historisches Archiv der Stadt Koeln (Germany--HMML 36463)--CLA 1169.

So, I first turned to Lowe to find what HMML has (in the microfilms that it produced) that might be useful.  The bulk of the examples were found to be from Austria, Germany, Spain, England, and Switzerland.  However, digitization projects in Cologne (at the Cathedral Library) and Switzerland (including Einsiedeln Abbey) had already reduced the need for HMML to digitize some of the microfilms from these libraries.  On the other hand, many other libraries have not yet had the opportunity to digitize their collections, and HMML's films may here provide some useful sources for study.

CLA 1457 - eighth-century Uncial and minuscule from St. Paul im Lavanttal (Austria; HMML 12518).

CLA 1457 - from St. Paul im Lavanttal (Austria; HMML 12518).

From the Abbey of Saint Paul in Lavanttal (or St. Paul in Carinthia, per Lowe), we have a complete copy of a manuscript in eighth-century Uncial.  Lowe describes the manuscript as being in both Uncial and a later continuation in minuscule (eighth to ninth century), which he does not reproduce in CLA.  HMML's films can provide samples of both hands.  HMML also has a few samples of less-common scripts, as well, such as this eighth-century one from Corbie.

CLA 1168 - Historisches Archiv der Stadt Koeln (HMML 36456)

As it turns out, I also "re-discovered" a list I compiled almost a decade ago that listed several manuscripts dated before the tenth century in the HMML collection.  Most of the Lowe/CLA manuscripts were also on this list, but some had been accidentally omitted.  So, now we have a larger list of nearly 400 early manuscripts (pre-tenth century) in the HMML microfilm collections.  While very many of these are fragments from bindings, they still represent a large corpus of scripts and hands from across Europe and could prove useful to vHMML's long-term objectives of training the next generation of manuscript scholars.

The next stage of our work will be identifying which images are most useful to vHMML.  At this time we have digitized several microfilms of early manuscripts, and will continue to scan fragments and some of the complete manuscripts.  But, as with all of our microfilms, we must ask permission from the libraries that actually own the manuscripts, before we use these images on the Web.  For this presentation, I have used a few digital copies in greatly reduced form, but for vHMML we will need to provide the images in their fullest size for the best resolution.

CLA 1364 - Anglo-Saxon script from a copy of the Gospels at the Trier Cathedral Library (Germany; HMML 40231)

Finally, there were also some manuscripts filmed partially in color during HMML's work in the microfilm era, and many of these images have been put into Vivarium ( with the blessings of the libraries that own the manuscripts.  Yet, there are still some which HMML hopes eventually to be able to include in vHMML, such as this one from cathedral in Essen (Germany):

CLA 1192 - Early Caroline minuscule from a Gospel book in Essen (Germany; HMML 35251)

As we continue to find and make use of these pictures, HMML's goal remains the preservation of manuscript culture and the promotion of manuscript studies around the world.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.