National Library of Australia
View Catalogue Record
Created: May 2015
For ease of searching, the listing of the Library's holdings of medieval manuscript material has been grouped as follows:
Individual collections – these comprise the two large collections that make up the bulk of our holdings and smaller collections ranging in size from a single volume to one page.
Binding fragments – medieval manuscript fragments used as bindings in later volumes of published works.
Other holdings – includes online only resources and facsimile editions of significant medieval volumes.
The purpose of this guide is to provide researchers with an overview of and links to the National Library of Australia's medieval manuscript holdings.
The National Library of Australia holds a small but significant group of individual collections of medieval manuscripts acquired from different sources over a number of years. They range from a missal fragment dating from the 10th century to devotional volumes to legal documents created in the 15th century.
As a whole, the volumes and documents in these collections provide researchers with the opportunity to study a variety of aspects of life from these early times. Legal documents witnessed at Westminster in the Court of Elizabeth I, early forms of musical notation, devotional volumes that provide glimpses of the people who owned them, beautifully crafted medieval scripts, glorious illustrations, book binding techniques – all these and more are there for the discovery.
Two main collections make up the bulk of the Library's holdings of medieval manuscripts. The largest comprises fragments of medieval manuscripts which were acquired over the course of a lifetime's collecting by renowned art dealer and collector Sir Rex Nan Kivell for what he referred to as his 'Calligraphy Collection'. These fragments fall into three main groups: legal documents, musico-liturgical fragments and a miscellaneous group of fragments that had been 'recycled' from early works for use as endpapers and pastedowns in the bindings of later, mostly published works. Research has revealed that many of these fragments have a historical significance in their own right.
The second collection comprises 10 volumes from the library of the Clifford Family of Ugbrook Park, Devon, which was acquired from the estate of the 11th Baron Clifford in the 1960s. They include Books of Hours, Psalters, Bibles, Prayer Books and a cartulary from Chertsey Abbey, which is one of five known such volumes and the only to be held in the Southern Hemisphere.
There are several smaller collections which include a 14th century English Psalter with Welsh connections, and a volume containing regulations of the Alcobaça Monastery, Portugal, circa 1400. A small group of rare books containing fragments stitched into their bindings complete the Library's original holdings.
The Library also holds facsimile copies of two significant medieval volumes – the Book of Kells and the Rothschild Prayer Book, and provides online access, via its catalogue, to a significant early manuscript that describes and illustrates the Southern Cross.
Most of these items are available for viewing in our Special Collections Reading Room. In order to request items you will need to be registered as a reader, which can be done online. Items need to be requested online via the Library's catalogue prior to your visit.
If you are unable to visit the Library in person, you can access information about our holdings via the Library's catalogue. Following is a list of all of the Library's medieval manuscript holdings. Each entry is linked to the individual catalogue record which provides a description of the holding and a link to finding aids and digitised images, where available.
Have you uncovered new connections or information relating to any of these items? If so, we would like to hear from you.
You can contact us via our Ask a Librarian service.
Brief descriptions of individual collections of medieval manuscript materials, together with links to the relevant catalogue record and details guide, where available.
Ten volumes consisting of four Books of Hours, two Bibles, one Psalter, one Prayer Book, one Breviary, and one Cartulary.
Link to catalogue record and from there to the finding aid for the whole collection.
235 items comprising legal documents and fragments from manuscripts of theological, biblical, musico-liturgical and literary works.
One volume of Regulations of the Alcobaca monastery, Portugal
Link to catalogue record: MS 4346
One illuminated Psalter
Link to catalogue record: MS 1172
One sheet containing part of a later copy of the Legenda aurea of Jacobus de Voragine, in Latin.
Link to catalogue record
Documents relating to the Gladwin family and their property in Essex at Northweald and Nettswell and a note dated December 1764 regarding peace negotiations between Major Henry Gladwin and Indian Chief Pontiac.
See also microfilm copy
Relates to Robert, William and Richard, sons of Richard Tret of Newtown, Lancashire, England who acquired, via Ralph le Massy, their freedom from Robert Banastre, Lord of Makerfield.
Written in England; twenty long lines.
Later copy taken from Boethius' "De Arithmetica", made by an anonymous scribe in a Caroline hand.
Music fragment from a Breviary.
Four sheets of medieval music manuscript.
Historiated initial of St Martin and the beggar, cut from an antiphonal Northern Italy (possibly Savoy).
Brief descriptions of and links to catalogue records for individual volumes containing fragments of medieval manuscript materials within their bindings.
18th century volume bound with a 14th century medieval manuscript on vellum which includes a reference to King Alfonso of Aragon (possibly Alfons IV of Aragon).
15th century volume covered with medieval music manuscript used as front and back covers.
17th century volume with a 14th century [vellum?] Netherlandish medieval manuscript fragments used as endpapers.
17th century volume with two small [vellum?] fragments from a single early 16th century English charter relating to Thomas Blanch used as pastedowns at the front and back of the volume.
19th century volume bound in a leaf of a vellum manuscript, comprising a 13th Century fragment of a poem in Latin by Ovid.
16th century volume with two medieval manuscript vellum fragments c1300 from England or northern France used as pastedowns.
15th century volume with a fragment of a 13th century English Medieval manuscript on vellum used as an end pastedown.
15th century volume with medieval manuscript paste-downs.
16th century volume with two English manuscripts (late 13th and late 14th century) on parchment used as pastedowns on inside front and back covers.
18th century volume with medieval music manuscript fragment used in binding.
16th century volume with two fragments from the same medieval manuscript stitched into inside front and back binding.
16th century volume with fragments of manuscript on vellum used as fly-leaves.
Link to catalogue record
17th century volume with fragment of medieval manuscript vellum stitched on inside back cover of binding; text in secretary cursive script, possibly 15th-16th century.
17th century volume with medieval manuscript fragment bound in inside front cover; written in black ink in a secretary cursive script.
16th century volume with two fragments from a single medieval manuscript used as pastedowns on inside front and back covers.
17th century volume with two fragments from a medieval document on vellum; stitched into inside front and back covers; appear to be from a single folio.
16th century volume with two vellum fragments which appear to be from the same medieval manuscript stitched in inside binding.
16th century volume with two fragments from a single medieval music manuscript on vellum stitched in inside front and back binding; includes part of a decorated initial 'R' and a four-line stave.
Brief descriptions of and links to catalogue records for online only resources and facsimile editions of significant medieval volumes.
This feacsimile edition reproduces the Book of Kells for the first time in its entirety and in full colour.
Facsimile volume in Latin : commentary in German.
252 leaves in full colour. The Rothschild Prayer Book is an acknowledged masterpiece of Renaissance manuscript illumination, written in Ghent and decorated by a group of illuminators active there around 1501-1510.
The manuscript is a contemporary copy of "Lettera di Andrea Corsali allo Illustrissimo Signore Duca Juliano de Medici, Venuta Dellindia del mese di Octobre Nel M.D. XVI". It was prepared for Andrea Gritti, Doge of Venice from 1523. It provides the only known narrative of a Portuguese voyage in 1515 down the African coast, around the Cape of Good Hope, and into the Southern and Indian Oceans, making landfall at Goa on the Indian coast, later travelling down to Cochin at the foot of India. After rounding the Cape, Corsali observed the curious behaviour of an unrecorded group of Stars (the Southern Cross) which he described and illustrated. The letter was sent from Cochin to his patron, Giuliano de Medici, in Florence (15 pages, the last page blank). Also two volumes of research material: 'The Corsali manuscript', Horden House, 1989. 'The Corsali manuscript research notes', Horden House, 1989.
Contemporary copy of a letter by Andrea Corsali which provides the only known narrative of a Portuguese voyage in 1515 in which he described and illustrated the Southern Cross for the first time.