For the next three weeks, emob readers can explore Gale Cengage’s British Literary Manuscripts Online for free. The database contains facsimile images of manuscripts digitized from microfilm. Though the texts themselves cannot be searched, their metadata can be. Authors can also be browsed alphabetically. The resolution is good, and legibility can be enhanced through digital magnification and brightness and contrast controls. Line tools and highlighting tools allow for digital annotation.
The product consists of two parts, both of which are included in the free trial: part one includes Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts; part two includes manuscripts written between 1660-1900.
On the database’s home page, the following links to online tutorials help with basic paleography.
Other links on the BLMO web site include sites for portraits, maps, and digital scholarship. As with actual manuscripts, it is sometimes difficult to know what one is reading, though the full citation link on the entry’s page sometimes helps.
It will be interesting to hear readers’ evaluations of this product, particularly how productively it can be put to use, for research or teaching or both.