Arundel MS 155, fol 133r. © British Library

Medieval England and France, 700 – 1200

Since 2016 the national libraries in England and France have worked together to create a digitised collection of their medieval manuscripts from England and France between 700-1200.

Admiring - British Library Royal MS 4 D II
Tuija Ainonen, Project Curator, Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, Kristian Jensen, Head of Collections and Curation of the British Library, Rachel Polonsky, and Marc Polonsky viewing a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark (British Library Royal MS 4 D II).

Thanks to the patronage of The Polonsky Foundation, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library have established an unprecedented partnership in the field of medieval manuscripts. The project aims to digitise and study more than 800 medieval manuscripts, one part held by the BnF and the other half by the British Library

The manuscripts were selected because of their importance for the history of French and English relations in the Middle Ages, as well as for their artistic, historical or literary value. Written between the 8th and the 12th centuries, they represent the variety and spread of the intellectual production of the early Middle Ages and the Romanesque era.

“This project brings together riches of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library and makes them available to researchers and the wider public in innovative and attractive ways. Our Foundation is privileged to support this collaboration, which continues the cultural exchange and profound mutual influence that characterises the history of these two nations over many centuries”  says Dr Leonard S. Polonsky on behalf of The Polonsky Foundation.

Next week, an international conference in Paris marks the launch of the two websites created by the joint project. As of now (19.11.2018) only the English website is accessible, but hopefully, the French part will be open for visitors in the days to come. The French website will allow us to see all 800 manuscripts, while the English partner will present a choice of manuscripts in detail while exploring their significance through articles written by specialists.

The Conference

The international conference marks the launch of the two websites created by the joint project. The conference shines a new light upon the rich heritage made available online thanks to The Polonsky Foundation, and upon the historical, literary and artistic relationships between medieval England and France.

The 21st November showcase the new resources created by the joint project and will consist of a dialogue between the project collaborators. They will present the achievements and the lessons of this partnership that for the first time brings together the medieval collections of both institutions. A special focus will be placed on the opportunities created by the development of digital humanities and by image interoperability, which are transforming research practices.

The 22nd and 23rd November will be devoted to the manuscripts, their illumination, their texts and their dissemination. Specialists from various fields will gather together for interdisciplinary presentations and discussion.

The Partners

Royal MS 4 D II c 1175-c 1225 Title Gospel of St Mark with the Glossa Ordinaria,
And here is what they admired: Royal MS 4 D II c 1175-c 1225. Gospel of St Mark with the Glossa Ordinaria, fol 2v-3r. © British Library

The Bibliothèque nationale de France holds more than 40 million documents, including 14 million books and printed material, manuscripts, maps, plans, photographs, coins, audiovisual documents. All gathered over the past five centuries through legal deposit and a proactive acquisition policy. As a guardian of the transmission of this heritage to future generations, the BnF also ensures the preservation and restoration of items in its safekeeping. Gallica, the digital library of the BnF and its partners, provides online access to nearly 5 million documents. As a place of excellence and research, that is open to everyone, the Library is committed to the dissemination of its invaluable collections to all audiences through a cultural programme of exhibitions, visits, workshops and colloquia, at its sites and online.

The British Library was created as part of the British Museum in 1753. In 1973, the British Library was separated from the Museum and is today one of the largest libraries in the world. Its mission is to make the UK’s intellectual heritage accessible to everyone. Its collections span almost three millennia and come from every continent. Numbering over 160 million items, they include books, archives, manuscripts, newspapers, journals, maps, photographs, stamps, prints, databases, music scores and sound recordings. Collecting and protecting the nation’s intellectual and cultural heritage and sharing it with a wide audience – researchers, businesses, students and the general public – underpins everything the Library does.

The Polonsky Foundation is a UK-registered charity that supports cultural heritage and research. Its principal activities include the digitisation of significant collections at leading libraries (the British Library; the Bibliothèque nationale de France; the Bodleian Library, Oxford; Cambridge University Library; the New York Public Library; the Library of Congress; the Vatican Library).


From: Full-page miniature in colours and gold, depicting a group of monks presenting a copy of the Rule of Benedict to St Benedict who sits enthroned while another monk prostrates himself at Benedict’s feet. Arundel MS 155, fol 133r. © British Library


France & England. Medieval manuscripts between 700 and 1200 c
21.11.2018 -23.11.2018

INHA Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art.
Auditorium Colbert
2 rue Vivienne
75002 Paris 2e


Registration at the website of the Polonsky Foundation

Read the programme


Manuscrits France et Angleterre

Medieval England and France, 700 – 1200