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.