of Illuminated

INITIALE is a digital catalogue of medieval illuminated manuscripts in French public libraries, with the exception of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Other holdings include:

  • post-medieval manuscripts,
  • illuminated incunables and printed books,
  • manuscripts held in other French institutions, such as regional, municipal, or diocesan archives, museums, cathedrals, seminaries, and libraries of learned societies,
  • manuscripts and illuminated printed books held in some foreign institutions (see Institution in the tab menu).

INITIALE is a research data base created by the Section of Illuminated Manuscripts (SME) of the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes (IRHT / CNRS).


Its content is constantly completed and augmented. Individual entries are therefore in various stages of completion, including simple listings of manuscripts identified as illuminated with their bibliographies.

INITIALE covers:

  • manuscript collections surveyed by the IRHT (Institution in the tab menu),
  • manuscript descriptions including identification of texts, date of production, origin, provenance, attribution to artists or scribes, and bibliography (Manuscript in the tab menu),
  • descriptions of illuminations (Decoration in the tab menu),
  • biographic entries on persons or institutions: artists, scribes, owners, patrons and authors (Person in the tab menu),
  • bibliography (Bibliography in the tab menu), including references to the SME library holdings.

Digital reproductions:

The descriptions of manuscripts and illuminations are displayed with digital reproductions. The reproductions also provide access to the Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts (Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits medievaux, BVMM), where the complete digitisation of a manuscript, if it exists, can be consulted.

Some digital reproductions are available only in the Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts: check whether a link to BVMM exists in the Manuscript entry.

A link to online reproductions of manuscripts not digitized by the IRHT is provided via the "Facsimile" button.

Click the link Medium for information concerning all reproductions available at the IRHT (microfilms and digital files).

On-line resources:

The Manuscript entries provide links to:

  • other IRHT databases: Medium, BIBALE, JONAS and FAMA,
  • external catalogues, such as Calames and CCFR,
  • the Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts (Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits médiévaux, BVMM),
  • external digital reproductions (Facsimile).
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