Searching for Digitized Manuscripts: The Bodleian Library

One of my all-time favorite places to browse for illuminated manuscripts to use either as a resource or just inspiration is what I call Bodley’s Luna, or the Luna.  This is just my own title for a collaboration between ARTstor (more on them later) and the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

My first piece of advice is to bookmark this website.  It’s not an easy URL to remember. You could just do a Google search for “bodley luna” whenever you want to pull it up, but it’s worth just bookmarking.  I’m not going to go over how to “search” the Luna, but I will highlight some of my favorite features.  I highly encourage you to poke around with it. It’s just too fun!

I adore this site for browsing, like I said.  You can do a keyword search using the bar in the upper right-hand corner, or you can use the navigation on the left to poke around.  I generally go for the latter option.

For instance, say I get a scroll assignment for someone who has a 13th century German persona.  I can click on “Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts,” or “Browse Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts” once I’ve gotten it selected (it’s defaulted on the landing page).  Then I get this glorious Narrow Search bar to the left of a bunch of thumbnails.

Under Where, I can limit what I see based on location. It also tells me how many results – and we’re talking about individual scans here – are in each section.

What I really love is the When section.  Here’s the “when” for Germany:

It doesn’t just give me a century – it gives me a span. If you hold your mouse over any of these, you’ll see the full entry for the date – and many of them are either “X century, beginning” or middle, or end, accordingly.  You’ll also see a lot of first quarter, second quarter, etc.  This is totally awesome, if you ask me.

The second thing I adore about the Luna is this little bar right here, which you can find at the top of your thumbnail array:

See those little squares that look like Dominos? That’s the “results per page” adjust.  You can also adjust the size of each thumbnail. This is awesome for me when I am looking for marginalia, or when I don’t want to scroll through page after page of results.

Perhaps the best thing about the Luna is the keyword search.  I poked around in the Luna when I was doing casual research on fool’s hoods – I just typed “fool” in the search bar, and I got 104 images. The Advanced Search is much like any advanced search – you have some Boolean operator helpers (and, not, or) and the all, any, and exact stipulations.  You can also search multiple collections.

Lastly, I am really pleased at how easy the Luna makes going from one search result to an entire manuscript entry.  For example, check out this awesome page that came up in my search for fools:

My first thought is how awesome a scroll this would make. Seriously, who doesn’t love 14th century bar and ivy?  So say I want to find more images from this same manuscript – all I have to do is hover over the data under Shelfmark and click “Search shelfmark.”

This pulls up everything in the database that has that same shelfmark, making it really easy for me to see all the pages.

Last but not least – the Luna has some of my favorite manuscripts of all time in their collection. (Note: this is not a complete list of the gems.)

So what are you waiting for?! Go play with the Luna! Have fun! Discover things!


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