The Three Living, The Three Dead

oAdd MS 35313, f. 158v, from the British Library, c. 1500.

The Three Living and the Three Dead, or the Three Dead Kings, is a poem dating back to the 13th century. It, or imagery from it, is often used to open the Office of the Dead in books of hours. Perhaps because medieval skellimans are pretty cool.

You can read the poem in Middle English, with footnotes.

You listen to the poem (after a longish intro).

You can read the British Library’s blogpost on the poem and the imagery in manuscripts.

Happy Fall!

Shining Light on Medieval Illuminations: Pigments through the Ages –

Shining Light on Medieval Illuminations: Pigments through the Ages –


Beginner and veteran transcribers, this app is available for free, on both Android and iOS devices. Manuscript database, basic info on each of them, typography galore… 

The origins of this app lie in online exercises in palaeography developed for postgraduate students in the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire, U.K. The aim is to provide practice in the transcription of a wide range of medieval hands, from the twelfth to the late fifteenth century. 


Truth be told, some of the pages might be in higher resolution, but still, it’s one of the best edu apps I’ve seen lately. 

Scribal Documentation Template.docx – Google Drive

Scribal Documentation Template.docx – Google Drive


Medieval women artists painting self portraits, 15th century.

Top: Unknown Artist Marcia Painting Self-Portrait using Mirror (from Giovanni Boccaccio De claris mulieribus, Anonymous French Translantio, Le livre de femmes nobles et renomees, France c 1440 British Library Artiste faisant son autoportrait

Bottom: Unknown Artist from Giovanni Boccaccio De claris mulieribus, Anonymous French Translantio, Le livre de femmes nobles et renomees, France c 1440 British Library Autoportrait sur bois

You can see more here (with citations):

Hi! I’m a bb!scribe and I was wondering if you knew anywhere to find reference pictures for buildings in manuscripts. I got challenged to do a scroll with a tower on it, and my usual haunts for this weren’t turning anything up (my google fu is weak). I tend to spend more time in later period French, but any time frame is good for the challenge (except for the hyper-realistic Dutch that I cannot draw and paint to save my life). Thank you so much!

Ohmygosh tell me about it. Trompe-l’œil makes me cry. It’s beautiful, but I am a paste-eating child when I’m asked to attempt it. Tasty, tasty paste.

BTW, I’m totally doing the mental super-sekrit-scribal-handshake. Rock on, scribes! And welcome! (Also, bb!scribe makes me giggle. <3)

First of, Google is weird when it comes to finding specific images in illuminated manuscripts. My two absolute favorite resources are the British Library and the Bodleian Library. There are, of course, plenty of other libraries and institutions that have digitized cataloges that you can search, but BL and Bodl are my go-tos.

I have written about how to search these two resources – you can find those blog posts here: [British Library 1] [British Library 2] [Bodleian Library]

Okay – Towers.

BableStone: 72 Views of the Tower of Babel – This blog has a cool run-down of various images of the Tower of Babel in manuscripts, along with citations (yea citations!) and links. If the links don’t work, use the shelf/manuscript number to search the collection (those links should work) and find it. (I’m having some issues with it, so if you run into problems, let me know and I will help you track down individual images.

I really like this one.

illustration by Michiel van der Borch to Jacob van Maerlant’s Rhimebible
MMW, 10 B 21 folio 9v
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands
Netherlands (Utrecht), 1332

“Tower of Babel” or “Babel” would be good search terms to use in Bodley and BL. “Building” and “architecture” aren’t bad, but you will get less.

A lot of 12th and 13th century portraiture use architectural elements for framing, like this portrait of King Solomon:


Additional 11639  f. 116
Miscellany of biblical and other texts (‘The Northern French Miscellany’ or earlier ‘the British Museum Miscellany’): including the Pentateuch, Haftarot, Tiqqun Sofrim, Five Scrolls, prayer book for the entire year with Haggadah, legal texts, poetry, calendars, Book of Tobit in Hebrew, etc.
France, N.

The Visconti Hours also has some cool architectural elements to it, but it’s a later period. It’s not tromp, but it’s still more realistic than earlier stuff. It’s not fully digitized online, but you can pick up a facsimile copy (with notes) for fairly cheap.


LF 155, Visconti Hours – The Gates of Gaza
National Library, Florence
Facsimile to purchase: [Abebooks]Facsimile in libraries: [Worldcat]

I hope that helps! Let me know if you need more. 🙂


This Book of Hours has the most peculiar shape: its pages resemble lily leaves (the yellow background is a paper sheet used for contrast).

It was made for king Henry II of France, who used it for private devotion – the Book of Hours contained prayers and other short texts, which were read at set times during the day. 

You can view other pages in more detail here

Medieval shaped books are really nifty!
Check out this heart-shaped one. 🙂

Chansonnier Cordiforme (1470s), also known as Chasonnier de Jean de Montchenu. “Cordiform” just means “heart-shaped.” This music manuscript was commissioned by canon Jean de Montchenu, later Bishop of Agen (1477) and Bishop of Vivier (1478-1497), in Savoy between 1460 and 1477.
Link to the whole thing (PDF): [Link]Bibliotheque nationale de France catalog record: [Link]You can listen to the music, recorded by Anthony Rooley and the Consort of Musicke in two parts: [Part 1], [Part 2]

Lindisfarne Gospels and Luttrell Psalter

The British Library has a lot of digitized manuscripts online, which is awesome for SCA Scribes. Two of their best known treasures haven’t yet made the move from their old site, “Digitized Manuscripts”, to the new one, “Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts” – the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Luttrell Psalter. That’s because the Lindisfarne is a Cotton manuscript and the Luttrell is an Additional, and both of these collections haven’t yet made the transition yet.

The old site (DM) is actually really cool – when you click “View Bindings,” you get a viewer that allows you to page through the digitized manuscript and zoom in on elements. The new site (CIM) only gives you one high-res image and one slightly smaller one (in additional to thumbnails). They do have some detail scans, but it’s not the same (as you can imagine).

Lindisfarne Gospels (Cotton MS Nero D.IV)

[Link]c. 700-3rd quarter 10th Century
Lindisfarne, Northumberland
Eadfirth, Bishop of Lindisfarne (690-721)

Luttrell Psalter (Add MS 42130)

for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, Irnham, Lincolnshire

You can see the BL’s Access/Reuse/Copyright notes concerning images here: [Link]

Images used in this post are from Wikipedia.