Manuscripts

National Art Library

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The National Art Library holds a rich collection of unique manuscript material ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day, in the form of bound volumes, single documents and whole archives. It encompasses illuminated manuscripts, modern calligraphy, literary manuscripts, how-to recipe books, papers of antiquarians, artists and scholars, correspondence, inventories, business papers, and many more miscellaneous wonders.

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Highlights include five notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, the original manuscripts for most of Charles Dickens’s novels, calligraphic work by Edward Johnston, one of Jonathan Swift’s diaries, a missal made in the 14th century for the Abbey of Saint-Denis in Paris, and the archives of Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th-century specialists of Italian Renaissance art.

Collection Highlights

Photo of Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, known as Codex Forster II, 1495 – 97, Milan, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/II, f. 91r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, known as Codex Forster II, 1495 – 97, Milan, Italy. Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/II, f. 91r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Li tre libri dell’arte del vasaio by Cipriano Piccolpasso, about 1557, Castel Durante (present day Urbania), Italy.  Museum no. MSL/1861/7446, ff. 38v – 39r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Li tre libri dell’arte del vasaio by Cipriano Piccolpasso, about 1557, Castel Durante (present day Urbania), Italy. Museum no. MSL/1861/7446, ff. 38v – 39r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Book of Hours of Margaret de Foix, 1471 – 76, Western France. Museum no. MSL/1910/2385, ff. 83v – 84r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Book of Hours of Margaret de Foix, 1471 – 76, Western France. Museum no. MSL/1910/2385, ff. 83v – 84r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Illuminated address by the Tenants of the Courtown estates for Lord Viscount Stopford, 1875 – 78, Ireland. Museum no. MSL/1984/69/1. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Illuminated address by the Tenants of the Courtown estates for Lord Viscount Stopford, 1875 – 78, Ireland. Museum no. MSL/1984/69/1. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Historiated initial 'M' cut from a choir book, painted by Girolamo da Cremona, about 1462, Lombardy, Italy. Museum no. 817-1894. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Historiated initial 'M' cut from a choir book, painted by Girolamo da Cremona, about 1462, Lombardy, Italy. Museum no. 817-1894. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens, about 1870, Britain. Museum no. MSL/1866/Forster/167/1, f. 5r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens, about 1870, Britain. Museum no. MSL/1866/Forster/167/1, f. 5r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Entartete Kunst: A typescript inventory for The Reichsministerium für Volksaufklarüng und Propaganda, vol. 1, 1941 or 1942, Germany. Museum no. MSL/1996/7/1, p. 179. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Entartete Kunst: A typescript inventory for The Reichsministerium für Volksaufklarüng und Propaganda, vol. 1, 1941 or 1942, Germany. Museum no. MSL/1996/7/1, p. 179. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Homilies on the Archangel Michael, late 18th or early 19th century, Ethiopia. Museum no.  MSL/1903/2081, f. 58v. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Homilies on the Archangel Michael, late 18th or early 19th century, Ethiopia. Museum no. MSL/1903/2081, f. 58v. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Chambord Missal, 1844, Paris, France. Museum no. MSL/1984/68, f. 49r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Chambord Missal, 1844, Paris, France. Museum no. MSL/1984/68, f. 49r. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Al-Wajiz, or an abridged commentary on the Koran, 1478, Egypt. Museum no. MSL/1869/7219, f. 2a © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Al-Wajiz, or an abridged commentary on the Koran, 1478, Egypt. Museum no. MSL/1869/7219, f. 2a © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of A Book of Verse by William Morris, 1870, London, Britain. Museum no. MSL/1953/131, p. 51. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
A Book of Verse by William Morris, 1870, London, Britain. Museum no. MSL/1953/131, p. 51. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Letters from Edward Johnston to Giorgiana, Helen, Elizabeth and Mary MacRae, 1897 – 1906, Britain. Museum no. MSL/1959/4394. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Letters from Edward Johnston to Giorgiana, Helen, Elizabeth and Mary MacRae, 1897 – 1906, Britain. Museum no. MSL/1959/4394. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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