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Hundreds of medieval manuscripts to explore as Parker Library becomes accessible online in 2018

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Walter Bower's Scotichronicon can be seen online, along with many other important historic manuscripts, as the Parker Library at the University of Cambridge makes its holdings available from 10 January 2018.

Digital surrogates of the collection, which is housed at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, have been online since 2009 as the result of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, however until now, only member organizations, and their associated students and scholars, have had access to the full content.

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Dr Suzanne Paul, Keeper of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, said: 'We learned a great deal about managing a large-scale digitisation project, not least the benefits of close collaboration with partners across the river and across the world. The project has really been a game-changer in opening up the whole of a historic library to scholars and interested readers across the world.'

Matthew Parker

Matthew Parker, who was Master of Corpus Christi College, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and Archbishop of Canterbury (1559-75) was an avid collector of books and manuscripts.

He salvaged medieval manuscripts which had fallen victim to the dissolution of the monasteries and his collection ranges from the 6th-century Gospels of St Augustine, to 16th-century records relating to the English Reformation.

Walter Bower's Scotichronicon

One of the manuscripts which will be of great interest to Scottish medieval historians is Scotichronicon by Walter Bower (1385-1449), a history of the kingdom of Scotland beginning with its foundation with the arrival of Scota, daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh.

This chronicle was a continuation and expansion of the Chronica gentis Scotorum by John Fordun (d. after 1363). The manuscript was written c. 1447-9 at the Augustinian abbey of Inchcolm in Fife and was amended under the direction of Bower himself, abbot of Inchcolm (d. 1449). It is considered to be one of the most important texts of late medieval Scottish historical writing in existence and was used as the basis for the nine-volume edition of the text published under the general editorship of D. E. R. Watt.

There are a few coloured full and half-page drawings of major narrative events such as the Battle of Bannockburn and the Coronation and funeal of Alexander III. It is not known how this manuscript came to be in Parker's collection. The reference is CCCC MS 171, and the manuscript has been divided into two parts, A and B, since James' description in 1912.

For more information, visit Parker Library news.

(images courtesy of the Master and Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and the Parker Library)

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