Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Research Source

A huge range of primary source covering social, cultural, political, scientific and religious perspectives, from the 12th to early 18th centuries.

The breadth of sources provided within this collection is extraordinary, from sources concerning the Black Death to the Restoration of the English monarchy and the Glorious Revolution.

What collections are included?

Arthurian Legends and the Influence of French Prose Romance

The Grail, Lancelot, Tristan and related manuscripts from the British Library

This collection contains 52 manuscripts from the British Library, dating from the 12th to the 16th centuries, which show the evolution of the Arthurian saga through romances in prose. These manuscripts include those of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Chrétien de Troyes and Robert de Boron and the sagas include tales of Joseph of Arimathea, Merlin, Saint Graal and Tristan.

Black Death: Sources concerning the European Plague: Series One

Rare Printed Sources from the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wofenbuttell, c1470-1822

This collection brings together a wide variety of rare printed sources, comprising some 230 volumes, covering the Black Death throughout Europe. There is material for Germany, France, Italy, England, Switzerland and Central Europe, opening up numerous possibilities for the comparative research work and the material has a particular focus on treatises giving suggestions, instructions and advice; short accounts of the particular sufferings of individual cities, towns or villages; recipes for treatments; notes on experiments; and historical recipes observations looking at the origins, causes and effects of The Plague.

Crown Servants: Series One

The Paper of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stafford, 1593-1641, from Sheffield City Libraries

This collection comprises the papers of Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, from the archives of Sheffield City Libraries. It consists of some 2,800 holograph letters, mainly addressed to Strafford himself, and a number of letterbooks in which copies were kept of his own correspondence, along with 16 volumes of manuscript material. These papers cover topics ranging from the confrontation of King Charles with Parliament to the troubles in Ireland and Scotland during the mid-seventeenth century.

Crown Servants: Series Two

The Papers of The Wynns and Gwydir, 1515-1690 and the Clenennau Letter and Papers, 1584-1690 from the National Library of Wales

This collection comprises of domestic and official correspondence and memoranda, 1515 to 1690, of the Wynns of Gwydir, the most powerful family of North Wales, and includes documents relating to a wealth of events, of both national and local importance, that occurred during the 175-year period covered by these papers. In addition to the Wynn material is the inclusion of the Clenennau Letters and Papers, 1584-1698, which cover a wide range of topics from local affairs to national and international politics.

Crown Servants: Series Three

The Lauderdale Papers, c1647-1682 from the British Library, London

This collection covers the Lauderdale Papers, c1647-1682, from the British Library, London. The material comprises the Papers of John Maitland, second Earl and first Duke of Lauderdale (1616-1682) and the correspondence and papers cover topics including: Negotiations between Charles I and Scotland, 1647-1649, Religious Affairs in Scotland, Negotiations with the Prince of Wales (the future Charles II), Relations between England and Scotland, 1660-1680 and Politics of the Restoration period.

Early Music

This collection comprises two parts. The core material in Part 1 brings together all the music manuscripts at Pembroke College, Cambridge and features six liturgical musical part-books, c1650, and a rare fifteenth-century manuscript of John Dunstable. Part 2 features a rich collection of sources for early Scottish, English and French music from the National Library of Scotland. Highlights of the collection include: The Scone Choir Book, The Leyden Song Book, The Skene Manuscript and the Panmure Music Books.

English Clandestine Satire, 1660-1704

Popular Culture, Entertainment and Information in the Early Modern Period

In late seventeenth-century England, verse took on two distinct characteristics: political verse- which circulated extensively in manuscript in the period 1660-1702 – and satirical verse, which explored the concerns of Town, State and Country in the post-Restoration period. In addition to allowing us to understand the political controversies of the age, the poems are also a rich source for exploring moral and sexual attitudes and also the emergence of metropolitan and urban culture, replete with its own gallery of stereotypes.

Foxe and the English Reformation, c1539-1587

Collected manuscript sources from the British Library, London

This collection brings together letters, tracts, treatises, sermons and other papers of John Foxe (1516-1587), the Protestant clergyman and martyrologist and includes Foxe’s writings on religious tolerance in England, correspondence from prominent reformers and martyrs and letters, prayers and confessions written by condemned Protestants before their execution.


The Literary Manuscripts of Katherine Philips (1631-1664)

Best known for the ‘Society of Friendship’ which she cultivated through the distribution of her manuscript works, Katherine Philips (‘Orinda’ or ‘the Matchless Orinda’ to her contemporaries) remains one of the most significant writers of the early modern period. Philips’ legacy survives through a substantial body of manuscript material, digitised in this collection.

Renaissance Man - The Reconstructed Libraries of European Scholars, 1450-1700: Series One

The Books and Manuscripts of John Dee, 1527-1608

This collection makes available the actual volumes – printed and manuscript – that made up the library of John Dee, (1527 -1608Dee’s Library consisted of 2292 printed volumes and 199 manuscript volumes according to his library catalogue of 1583 and this collection will provide insights into reading habits in the period and into the remarkable character of John Dee. Major authors featured in Dee’s library include Albertus Magnus, Alkindi, Aristotle, Roger Bacon, Cardano (whom Dee met in Southwark), Cicero, Copernicus, Dastin and Euclid. This collection is an important resource for those studying subjects ranging from History of the Book to the watershed between Magic and Science.

Receipt Books, c1575-1800

From the Folger Shakespeare Library

This project brings together over 80 manuscripts from the holdings of the Folger Shakespeare Library dating from 1575 to the end of the 18th century. Such receipt books preserved family traditions and passed on common wisdom. They show how diet changed over this period and explain methods of baking bread, preserving meat and mixing pottage. They reflect developments in agriculture and the importation of new foodstuffs the impact of new seasonings and a shift in taste from sweet to salty can be investigated in the sources.

Spanish Historical Writing About the New World, 1493-1700

From the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

This collection offers 82 significant works of history mainly written in Spanish and America before 1700, including on-the-spot narratives, lives of missionaries, ethnographic studies, and natural histories. It includes writings by explorers, conquistadors, missionaries, traders and scientists. Equally importantly, there are also works by mestizos and Native American writers. It contains a wide range of extremely rare printed sources covering The Conquest of Mexico to Literature and the New World.

Masculinity: Men Defining Men and Gentleman, 1600-1800

This collection features rare advice books, manuals and literary texts relating to masculinity between 1580-1800. It is chiefly comprised of 61 core texts from the collections of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, including: Castiglione’s The Coutyer (1561), Primaudaye’s The French Academie (1589) and broadsides like The Noble Gallant (c.1670)

Medieval and Early Modern Women

This collection fills a need for original source material relating to Medieval and Early Modern Women, bringing us closer to the social and domestic lives of women in the medieval and early modern period. It contains important texts by key women authors, manuscripts bearing illustrations of women, and sources describing the lives of women in this period. One such example is the first known autobiography in English – that of Margery Kempe (c.1373-c.1439), the mystic and traveller – and the earliest extant diary proper – that of Lady Margaret Hoby (1571-1633) – which started as a spiritual and confessional diary but changed over time into an account of her life

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 12th to 18th centuries


  • Early music
  • Theatre and performance
  • Literature
  • Religion, Philosophy and Intellectual Thought
  • Political History
  • History of Science and Technology
  • History of Medicine
  • Travel and Exploration
  • Gender Studies
  • Plague and Black Death

Material Types

  • Illuminated manuscripts
  • Personal papers
  • Diaries and journals
  • Correspondence
  • Rare books
  • Receipt books
  • Account books
  • Manuscript sheet music

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