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Rare Chronique Anonyme Universelle Manuscript Now Viewable Online

July 13, 2015

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

Today, the Boston Public Library announced that the Chronique Anonyme Universelle, or “Genealogy of the Bible,” a 35-foot scroll and manuscript dating from approximately 1470-1479 is now available online. The ornate manuscript depicts the history of the world from Creation to 1380, tracing the genealogy of individuals from the Bible to the royal houses of France and England, and weaving in biblical stories alongside Roman and Greek history. Users can view the scroll at the BPL’s Digital Commonwealth portal, zooming into the piece to see the historic writing and colorful images of castles, medieval sword fights, and the Garden of Eden.

“This is a wonderful example of what is possible when our collections expertise, digital, technical and software expertise all come together to showcase a rare and beautiful item with great historical and narrative significance. And, partnerships with organizations like the Associates are key to bringing more of these items out into the digital light of the modern world,” said David Leonard, Interim President of Boston Public Library.

The Chronique Anonyme Universelle features a Christian genealogy of the Bible, beginning with the creation of the world and continuing to the foundation of London in 1380. The scroll features biblical stories, ancient histories of Rome and Greece, and the royal houses of France and England. Viewers will also see a genealogical tree from Adam to Romulus and Remus. The manuscript features Gothic script with Parisian artwork, and miniature illustrations in medallions with decorative letters, floral designs, and borders in blue, green, red, brown, and gold. Lisa Fagin Davis, a leading Medieval scholar, researched and described the manuscript for the BPL.

“It is our great pleasure to share the Chronique Anonyme Universelle in its entirety and to bring viewers back to a significant time period that explores so many elements of our collective history,” said Tom Blake, Digital Projects Manager. “Boston Public Library is proud of our ongoing commitment to digitize our collections and connect audiences with a breadth of items they may not see otherwise.”

The scroll, conserved by the Associates of the Boston Public Library and digitized by Boston College, is part of the BPL’s Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts Collection of Distinction, comprised of religious and devotional texts, as well as secular and scientific titles, many of which are illuminated. These unique and ancient manuscripts are some of the best sources for understanding the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, revealing many elements of the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual life of the period. The BPL has 27 Collections of Distinction representing the most outstanding, expansive, and renowned of the library’s more than 23 million items.

Digital Commonwealth is Massachusetts’ digital library, providing a means of managing and preserving digital collections to ensure they will be accessible to future generations. The deep-zooming viewer and the Digital Commonwealth site were developed at the BPL using open-source software and technical standards established by the research library community. The BPL's technical stewardship of Digital Commonwealth demonstrates the library's commitment to developing and providing library specific technological resources to libraries and museums around the state, bringing a wealth of unique historical collections to life with elegant features such as the zooming viewer and interactive maps. During the month of June the Boston Pictorial Archive, Winslow Homer Illustrations, Social and Political Cartoons, and Stereograph collections were added to Digital Commonwealth. Since 2005 BPL has digitized more than 150,000 photo archives, books, maps, manuscripts, prints, and other materials. Items available at Digital Commonwealth also become available through the Digital Public Library of America.

Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit