Digitizing Medieval Manuscripts for the Classroom

Page from the illuminated manuscript The Trinity Apocalypse

Digitized page from a facsimile of the illuminated manuscript the Trinity Apocalypse.

This is the first of two blog posts about using Special Collections' digitized materials in the classroom.

The Special Collections Research Center of NC State University Libraries houses a wide variety of materials, such as the University Archives, architectural drawings, rare books, and primary sources documenting our collecting areas. Our purpose is not just to house and preserve these materials, but most importantly to make them available and useful to researchers. Two such ways we do this are by incorporating them into teaching opportunities and by digitizing them for online access.

Both of these strategies were employed for the English seminar course ENG 439, "Studies in the Renaissance: Renaissance Reboot," taught in spring 2022 by Associate Professor of English Maggie Simon. The course applied a cultural studies lens to historical texts in terms of race, gender, English colonialism, and book history.

As part of the course, Simon collaborated with Libraries staff in Special Collections, Research Engagement and Digital Library Initiatives (DLI) departments to plan a session displaying both Medieval and Renaissance Era materials held by Special Collections and projecting digitized images of the same materials in the Visualization Studio at Hill Library for a digital annotation exercise.

Professor Simon selected four items to be digitized for the session, including two medieval manuscript fragments from our Paleography Study Collection 1250-1791, pages from John Guillim's Display of Heraldrie from 1660, and pages from a facsimile of the illuminated 13th-century manuscript Trinity Apocalypse.

SCRC staff members scanned these materials, handling them with care and working to capture a high-clarity image for detailed viewing on the Visualization Studio's walls, and also captured the image as the physical resource truly appears, without touch ups in editing software. The two vellum (fine parchment writing material made of animal skin) manuscript fragments are now available online in our Rare and Unique Digital Collections, where they can be viewed by any online researcher.

Vellum notarial document, 1365

Gratian Decretals De Purgatio Tit. XXXIV, Cap IV, circa 14th century

Stay tuned for the second blog post about how the digitized materials were used in the class.

If you would like to learn more about the Special Collection Research Center and our over 150,000 resources of digitized materials, please visit the Rare and Unique Digital Collections for access to images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials. If you have questions about our collections or would like to view Special Collections materials, please see our online request form, or visit our homepage and our collection guides. The Special Collections Research Center is open by appointment only. Appointments are available Monday–Friday, 9am–6pm and Saturday, 1pm–5pm. Requests for a Saturday appointment must be received no later than Tuesday of the same week.