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Principles of Description

General information

This section contains general information regarding the manuscript, to be used as a navigation tool to find and index manuscripts .

Manuscript identifier: A unique number to be attribute to each manuscript for ease of electronic search.

Repository: Where the manuscript is kept.

Shelf mark or press mark

Nickname: Common name or popular name by which the manuscript is known to the scholarly community.

Title: Provides a standard short description of the content.

Date: Date formats are given as follows:

  • s.xiin: date range 1000-1010
  • s.xi1: date range 1000-1050
  • s.ximed: date range 1040-1060
  • s.xi2: date range 1050-1099
  • s.xiex: date range 1090-1099
  • s.xi/xii: date range 1090-1110
  • s.xiiin: date range 1100-1110
  • s.xii1: date range 1100-1150
  • s.xiimed: date range 1140-1160
  • s.xii2: date range 1150-1199
  • s.xiiex: date range 1190-1199
  • s.xii/xiii: date range 1190-1210
  • s.xiiiin: date range 1200-1210
  • s.xiii1: date range 1200-1250
  • s.xiii2: date range 1250-1299
  • s.xiiiex: date range 1290-1299

Pre-1220 content

In this section we include all those items which were inserted in the manuscript before 1220. We define ‘ITEM’ as text which is written in main ruled frames or columns, or a text either outside the ruled margins or in an interlinear position.

Summary: Summary information on the content of the text; a very brief overview.


  • Indication of where the item appears: folio numbers for the beginning and end of the item, lines and columns. Note the difference in abbreviating fol. and fols, see MHRA Style Guide p. 50.
    • Example: fols 2r-24v8; fol. 3; fols 2-24v8a (a indicates the first column).
  • If the item is not included in the main frame or column, we indicate in which margin it appears.
    • Example: fol. 25r3-18 right margin.

Modern title of work: Included if there a commonly-agreed one, such as ‘Homily for the second Sunday after Epiphany’, plus Cameron number.

Rubrics: transcribed.

Incipit and explicitWe transcribe for each incipit and explicit a complete grammatical and semantic unit. The colophon, if present, is completely transcribed.

Additions: Indicates that the text is inserted either in the margin or in interlinear position or in a blank space.

Note that Rubric, Incipit and Explicit and short Additions are transcribed.

Transcription Guidelines:

  • Retain manuscript reading and word division.
  • Manuscript punctuation should also be retained.
  • <> indicates letters are supplied.
  • [...] indicates letters are lost (Tag: <unclear reason="trimming">[...]</unclear>)
  • xx indicates unreadable for any reasons. Each x denotes the space of a single letter.
  • / indicates line break (Tag: <lb/>)
  • Abbreviations will be expanded. In the on-line version they will be italicised (Tag: <expan></expan>)
  • Alterations if transcribed are tagged with <add></add>. It is possible to provide an explanation as to where the alteration is placed: <add place="interlinear">oi</add>
  • Special fonts for wyn, þ, ð, æ, 7; Ð, Æ, Þ are used.
  • Accents in incipit and explicit are transcribed.
  • Use of capitals: rubrics -- rustic capitals, square capitals, uncials, or a hybrid -- are transcribed in small capitals. Large capitals are used for labelling pen-drawn initials and for litterae notabilioresLitterae notabiliores are any capitals that are offset in some way: by size, by decorative features, or by design, to make them visually more obvious than other graphs on the folio.
  • Many manuscripts have two layers of rubric: the title in a larger capital, and then the first two or three lines of text -- the incipit -- in smaller caps. Using small caps for all rubrics and saving large caps for decorated initials makes the distinction clearer.
  • Language indicates the main language of the item.
  • Other versions of the text: list all the manuscripts. Reference manuscripts by their short titles: CUL Ii.1.33; Bodley 343; CCCC 303; Vespasian D. xiv.
  • Note: Avoid judgemental terms in relation to textual constitution and transmission; e.g., ‘variant’, ‘authorial’, ‘authentic’, ‘corrupt’, ‘deviant’, ‘imperfect’, ‘presence/absence’, ‘deletion/addition’. Use ‘acephalous’ where folio(s) missing; use ‘starts at’ otherwise. Try to match a note in the items (marginalia and interlineata) with a date. The date can be general, such as 's. xiii'.
  • Bibliography: Reference to printed editions of published articles. Latest, scholarly editions are given: not Thorpe, but Clemoes if the text is available, since it is possible to cross-reference Thorpe through Clemoes. A comprehensive bibliographical note on the manuscript and all its items is in the general bibliography at the end of the manuscript description.

Physical Description

Object Description:

Form: For example: a codex, roll, tablet, single leaf, bifolium.

Support: Parchment by default.

Extent: Refers to the leaves of the manuscript and may include:

  • Nature, texture, and colour of the material;
  • The outside dimensions of the leaves, height x width in millimetres;

Foliation or pagination: Give details.

Collation: Includes information on:

  • Quires and their collation formula, including missing folios, singletons, etc.
  • Signatures are signalled by exact quire and folio. Transcription of signatures reproduces their shape (e.g. Arabic or Roman numeral, upper or lower case, etc) and position.
  • Catchwords are signalled by exact quire, folio, and position: left, right or centre.
  • Diagrammatic representation of the manuscript: this is a drawing of the manuscript in tabular form which contains: the quires and features such as foliation referring to the beginning and end of the quire, possible irregularities between hair/flesh sequence and gaps in the sequence of the text.
  • Leaves in a quire: number of leaves, use of a pair of half-sheets in place of one sheet, use of single half-sheet.
  • Arrangement of the folded sheets, distribution of hair and flesh sides; dated where possible.

Condition: Presence of holes, tears or repairs (whether these were part of the material before its preparation; if not, whether they were made before or after the writing of the text), damp, water damage, stains etc.

Page layout:

  • Dimensions of frame and columns, provided on a quire by quire basis, will reflect the textual description above.
  • Number of columns.
  • Number of lines to a folio.
  • Dimensions of the writing grid, including number of written lines.
  • Overview: pricking (before or after folding), ruling, bounding line. Link to diagram of layout.
  • We use a diagrammatic representation of the layout, providing typologies of the writing grid which can be cross-referenced.

Description of the hand:

  • The writing of the text and a tentative date assigned to the script. Type of script (Caroline Minuscule, English Vernacular Minuscule, Gothic and, for majuscule, Square, Uncial, Rustic, Gothic).
  • If the scribe is known, give: name, place, period, Ker's letter ref.
  • Aspect.
  • Duct.
  • The treatment of ascenders.
  • The treatment of descenders.
  • Minims.
  • Individual letters, minuscule, where distinctive: a, æ, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, y, ð, þ, wyn and z (if it ever appears).
  • Individual letters, majuscule, where distinctive: A, Æ, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, Y, Ð, Þ.
  • Litterae Notabiliores.
  • Ligatures.
  • Abbreviations.
  • Punctuation.
  • Language.
  • Corrections.
  • Reference to other manuscripts or individual items in other manuscripts copied by this scribe.


  • List of decorations with reference to the locus, distinguishing between drawings, Lombard capitals, historiated initials, miniatures.
  • Colours.
  • Artist.
  • Place.
  • Date, where ascribed.


  • Any annotations made to the manuscript after 1220. Signs of use of the manuscript after 1220:
  • Spelling altered: outline details.
  • Glosses, notes or just scribbles: describe content, note the language.
  • Added titles: indicate where and for what.
  • Added running titles: indicate where and for what.
  • Added table of content : indicate where it appears.


  • Note whether contemporary or not. If contemporary, include: date, size in mm, cover, board, sewing, bands across the spine, fixing of cover on the boards, exterior furniture and decoration.

Accompanying material:

  • Pastedown. Note if present, material and position (front and back). Broad date.
  • Flyleaves. Note if present, material and number. Broad date.


We observe the distinction between evidence of origin and of provenance.

Origin: Including location, institution, names.

Provenance: Including location, institution, names.

Additional features which may appear in manuscripts and which can trace the manuscript’s use and history will be included:

  • Marks of ownership: ex-libris; ex-donos.
  • Shelf number.
  • Acquisition history.


Additional Information

Any additional comments on the manuscript.

Administrative information: Responsibilities, authorship and acknowledgement.

Surrogates: Other published images, including facsimiles, plates, etc.

General bibliography