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Research Guides@Tufts

Tisch Library Special Collections

Access to the Collection

For access to manuscripts and manuscript fragments, or to arrange a class visit, please contact Christopher Barbour, Humanities Bibliographer & Coordinator of Special Collections. Email

Individuals may consult most other Special Collections books, including manuscript facsimiles, in Tisch Library. These books may be used only in the library. Request them by their call numbers at the Digital Collections & Archives Reading Room on Level G, Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Leaf from a Book of Hours (France, ca. 15th Century) in the Tisch Miscellany.

About the Collection

I. Manuscripts & Manuscript Fragments

   Tisch Library holds over 30 Medieval & Renaissance manuscript books (codices). Sample images, and as time and funds permit, complete digital copies, can be seen on the Special Collections flickr page.

   The library also holds over two dozen fragments from manuscripts, early printed books, and fine press books donated in the 1950s and '60s. Tufts students in Art History and Medieval Latin have contributed transcriptions, translations, and commentaries for some pieces in the collection. A selection of images are online.

   This material is not available for recall in the DCA reading room. Please contact the Curator of Rare Books.

II. Facsimiles

      Rare and valuable in their own right, facsimiles of medieval manuscripts are created by the most exacting techniques of modern printing to replicate the size and appearance of medieval manuscripts. Scholars in art history, literature, music, and history study facsimiles gain insights that cannot be gleaned from digital images - although such images, too, are important adjuncts to the study of medieval books. Facsimiles convey meaningful information about the content, artistic qualities, materials, size, heft, colors, and binding techniques of the medieval codex.

     At the time of this guide update (October '17) there no longer is an easy way of finding facsimiles in the Tufts catalog. An advanced search in which the subject contains "manuscripts" and "facsimiles", with results facets "Tisch Library" and "books" checked, will bring up many relevant titles, but also many that are not.

     Several facsimiles frequently called up for use in class: 

Codex Etchmiadzin, a codex Gospel of supreme importance in the history, art, and culture of Armenia.

The Peterborough Bestiary, perhaps the finest compendium of the science and lore of animal life - real and mythical - in medieval England.

The Book of Kells, illuminated Gospel, 9th Century A.D. (MS. A.I. 6; Trinity College Library, Dublin)

De Materia Medica (Dioscorides's Herbal)

Der Sachsenspiegel, four versions of an important German legal manuscript

The Ellesmere Chaucer, regarded to be the most reliable early edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

Alexander Romance

Vita di Matilde di Canossa : Codice Vaticano latino 4922, 12th Century chronicle of the life of Matilde di Canossa (1046-1115), a powerful feudal duchess with strong religious and political ties to the Papacy.

Das Mirandola-Stundenbuch, British Library, Manuscript. Add. 50002, a facsimile of the 15th Century book of hours made for Galeotto Pico, Prince of Mirandola.

Wiener Genesis: Codex Theol. Gr. 31, Osterreichischen Nationalbibliotek, Wien. Facsimile of the surviving portion of the Byzantine codex purpureus produced in the 6th Century.