Providing researchers with new resources

Making its collections and academic research accessible in an attractive and innovative fashion is one of the BnF’s major challenges. It implies in order to develop innovative tools, to work in collaboration with other cultural and academic institutions. Focusing on Anglo-French relations, the England and France, 700–1200: medieval manuscripts from the BnF and the British Library project as well as the European project Digitens intend to provide researchers with new resources and bring academic research to the knowledge of a wider audience.

France England 700-1200

The bringing together of two medieval collections of excellence, through this ambitious digitisation project sponsored by the Polonsky Foundation, is the expression of a determination shared by the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library to put priceless treasures within everyone’s reach, thanks to our scientific and technological expertise. It is a common heritage that we are communicating together.”

Laurence Engel, President of the BnF

The England and France, 700–1200: medieval manuscripts from the BnF and the British Library website

As a result of the cooperation between the BnF and the British Library, this website is the expression of two institutions’ shared willingness to put priceless treasures – bearing witness to a common heritage intertwined with a shared history – within everybody’s reach, the general public and researchers alike, by making use of the most advanced technologies.

In this regard, the programme has enjoyed the sponsorship of the Polonsky Foundation.

This is the first time the two institutions cooperated on their collections of manuscripts, of which 800, dating from the 8th to the 13th century, were selected for their historical, literary and artistic interest and their ability to illustrate the history of Franco English relations in the High Middle Ages.

The scientific aspect goes hand in hand with a technological challenge posed by integrating g a viewer applying the IIIF  (International Image Interoperability Framework) protocol, enabling interoperability of digital content on a dedicated site, Gallica Marque blanche as well as aggregating all selected documents to be found from Gallica and Digitised Manuscripts, one of the digital collections of the British Library.

The British Library designed an “interpretative website” for mediation with the general public, providing scientific content along with descriptions of the chosen manuscripts and their valorisation through crosscutting themes in the form of articles, texts and videos.

The site includes such priceless, sumptuously illuminated items as the Winchester Benedictional, circa 1000 AD, the Chartres Bible, circa 1140, the Great Canterbury Anglo Catalan Psalter, produced circa 1200, and the Saint Denis Missal, an 11th century manuscript that was bound in two composite bejewelled covers at the Abbey of Saint Denis (9th-15th centuries).


As regards mediation, a great many posts dedicated to the programme have been published on the Gallica blog. View them all!


Finally, the work entitled Medieval Illumination: Manuscript Art in England and France by Charlotte Denoël and Kathleen Doyle, published by the British Library (in English) and the BnF (in French) and containing a selection of illuminated manuscripts, makes a perfect complement to this outstanding promotional initiative.


The DIGITENS (DIGITal ENcyclopaedia of European Sociability) project brings together historians, literary scholars, philosophers, linguists and computer scientists in order to develop research on British sociability in the Age of Enlightenment. It has resulted in open access publication of the Digital Encyclopaedia of British Sociability in the Long Eighteenth Century, a first of its kind that makes academic research on the subject accessible to a wider public.


The Digitens Digital Encyclopaedia

Collaborative and interdisciplinary, the Digital Encyclopaedia contains over a hundred entries, enriched by illustrations, hypertext links, reading suggestions and notes, along with a historical anthology. It examines the circulation of models of sociability in Europe and the colonial empires, enabling better understanding of the interactions, tensions, limitations and paradoxes characteristic of European models of sociability, with a focus on how such emerged and were shaped throughout the 18th century.

Wallpapers, Anglomania, Horace Walpole and the art of gardens, and epistolary friendships in the arts in the 18th century are just a few of the subjects connected with British sociability that have also been explored in posts available on the Gallica blog.

The Encyclopaedia is the fruit of collaboration between partners from France, Poland, the United Kingdom and Canada, and exchanges of researchers between the following partner institutions, including the BnF:

  • Université de Bretagne occidentale laboratoire HCTI (Héritages et Constructions dans le Texte et l’Image) - pilote
  • Université Paris 13
  • Sorbonne Université
  • Musée Cognacq-Jay
  • Warwick University
  • The National Archives
  • Kazimierz Wielki University
  • Universität Greifswald
  • McGill University
  • Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Università degli Studi “Gabriele d’Annunzio”
The Deserter no.6, hand screen, 1769 1799 - BnF, département Arts du spectacle


Digitens is a European RISE (Research and Innovation Staff Exchange) project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation (Grant Agreement no. 823863).