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Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

The Princeton University Library has very significant holdings of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. Most of them are in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, including 172 in the Robert Garrett Collection, 58 in the Grenville Kane Collection, 19 in the Robert Taylor Collection, and 201 in the growing Princeton Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. In addition, there are a number of manuscripts in the Cotsen Library, other manuscripts in other manuscript series or bound with printed books; more than 250 separate miniatures, leaves, and cuttings; and about 100 manuscripts in the Scheide Library. 

Princeton's manuscripts range in date from the 8th to 16th centuries. While Latin texts are predominant, there are excellent holdings of Byzantine and post-Byzantine Greek manuscripts, and vernacular manuscripts in Middle English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Dutch or Flemish. About 150 of the manuscripts are illustrated, accounting for about 1,750 miniatures, historiated initials, and other significant examples of manuscript illustration. In addition to codices, there are thousands of medieval and Renaissance documents in the John Hinsdale Scheide Collection (Italian, French, English), Ernest Cushing Richardson Collection (Italian), and Charles Carroll Marden Collection (Spanish) and other collections in the Manuscript Division. 

As a result of a recent project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, up-to-date description, bibliography, and digital images for all miniatures and other illustrations found in about 150 of these manuscripts are available online through the Index of Christian Art and ARTstor. The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections maintains slides, transparencies, and digital files for these manuscripts.Photoduplication is readily available. For conservation reasons, use of a few manuscripts is restricted. 

Available online with descriptions are digital versions of Garrett MS. 125 (Chr�tien de Troyes); Garrett MS. 158 (Giovanni Marcanova [ Collectio antiquitatum ]); and Princeton MS. 173 , a late 13th-century Byzantine manuscript from Constantinople, containing Aristotle, Organon , with extensive annotations and diagrams added during the Paleologan Renaissance, 1259-1448. Garrett MS. 43, a Benedictional written in late Carolingian minuscule and illuminated, probably at Lorsch Abbey, in the second quarter of the eleventh century, has also been digitized. Also available is Kane MS. 57, a portolan atlas (Spain or Italy, 3rd quarter of the 16th century), with four charts. 

More complete description are being made available through two published catalogs. (1) Byzantine manuscripts are described and illustrated in Greek Manuscripts at Princeton: A Descriptive Catalogue,by Sofia Kotzabassi and Nancy Sevcenko, with the assistance of Don C. Skemer (Department of Art and Archeology and the Program in Hellenic Studies, in association with Princeton University Press , 2010.) This catalog covers the holdings of the Manuscripts Division, The Scheide Library, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Princeton Theological Seminary. (2) Western manuscripts are being described in a two-volume Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library, by Don C. Skemer (forthcoming: Department of Art and Archeology and Princeton University Library, in association with Princeton University Press, 2013). The text of these two volumes is being completed for publication and will cover the Garrett, Kane, Taylor, and Princeton series in the Manuscripts Division, as well as a small number of manuscripts in the Cotsen Library. 

Older descriptions can be found in Seymour de Ricci and W.J. Wilson, Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (New York: American Council of Learned Societies, 1935-40); see "Library of Princeton University" as well as collections of Robert Garrett and Grenville Kane under their former locations ("Maryland-Baltimore" and "New York-Tuxedo Park"). See also W.H. Bond and C.U. Faye, Supplement(New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1962); Adelaide Bennett, Jean F. Preston, and William P. Stoneman, A Summary Guide to Western Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at Princeton University(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Library, 1991). The Garrett portion of Princeton's Armenian manuscripts is shelved with medieval manuscripts. For descriptions of Armenian manuscripts at Princeton, see Avedis K. Sanjian, A Catalog of Medieval Armenian Manuscripts in the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 392-432. 

For additional information and to make appointments, potential researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Additional Research Guides

  • Checklist of Western Medieval, Byzantine, and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University