The New Digital Bodleian

On July 10, the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford launched a new site for their digitized manuscripts. These were viewable before in a couple of different interfaces – one had frames, and was very not user-friendly.  I’ve written about the LUNA interface already. The LUNA is still there, and shows up as the third Google result when I search “bodliean illuminated manuscripts.” This may be because I use the LUNA quite a bit.

This is going to be an overview of the new site, with the caveat that it only recently launched, and it may be that some features are simply not yet available.


At first glance, the new interface for the Bodleian’s collection looks incredibly user-friendly.

First of all, it looks like the Bodleian has made quite a few more categories for easy browsing. These are the “Collections” on the main page of the Digital Bodleian. I can only assume that they are in the process of adding more items, since the “Western Manuscripts” collection in LUNA has 1,776 records, and the Digital Bodleian has 48. Whereas in LUNA, you could select a collection and narrow your results down by region and language, it doesn’t look like you can do this in the new interface. You can either chose a collection or a language, but not both.

But what’s that “My Collection” thing? Bodleian lets you register a free account and create collections. Let’s play with that! 😀

I tried initially to log in with my Google account, but I got a 404 error after choosing the account I wanted to use. No biggie – username, email, password, and boom, I have a Bodleian account.

One of the manuscript collections I use a lot at the Bodleian are those donated by Francis Douce. There is no “advanced search” option – presumably because they want you to use the, as of yet not very useful, filter. This is my result page for “Douce”:

To open a manuscript, you have to double-click. You also have to double-click to open pages. There is a full-page view toggle, which still allows you to zoom.

You can add items to your collection using the plus sign in the interface, and the download link allows you to save a .zip file of the image you have selected. It does not appear that you can save multiple images at once. The sidebar has some interesting features – there are private comments (saved to your login, I assume), tags (not sure if these are public or private), and public comments. This would be great for keeping track of things you have used for scribal work.

All in all, it looks like the Digital Bodleian is unfinished. It definitely has an easy learning curve as compared to LUNA (which isn’t difficult if you’re used to filtering search results). It will be interesting to compare them as the DB loads more of it’s collection. In the meantime, I will still be using LUNA when I want to search the Bodleian’s collection.

Want to share this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.