Licensing Status of Digitized Manuscript Repositories

(Skip the introductory prose and jump directly to the inventory.)

BACKGROUND: In anticipation of creating a book* version of the online paleography course I created for vHMML, I was curious about the feasibility of creating a richly-illustrated course text covering the history of Latin script from ca. 500-1500 using only public domain images or images with fairly open Creative Commons licenses. I innocently asked Dot Porter, who I know spends a lot of time thinking about the licensing of digitized manuscripts, whether she maintained a list of projects and repositories that offered liberal licensing or public domain high-res images. She said she did not, but she pointed me to the list of repositories and projects maintained by DMMapp (the Sexy Codicology folks) as a list that could serve as the basis for an inventory of licensing statuses. So, as if I didn’t have enough to do in the days just before Christmas, I started clicking on every link in their database to check.

So far, I have explored just over half the 535 or so repositories and projects listed by DMMapp, so the list below will be updated as I continue checking. Rather than list every repository even if its licensing terms and downloading options are not congenial, I list below only those that:

Allow direct downloading of images of sufficient quality to print from and to zoom in on in digital form in order to work with script and examine details,


Offer their images either in the public domain or under Creative Commons BY, BY-SA, or BY-NC licenses.


⇒ If you know of others not listed here, or have corrections to these listings, let me know! (Contact info in left sidebar.)

Public Domain

Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum (Rijksstudio)

Basel, Universitätsbibliothek (e-codices)

London, British Library, Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts  (NB: Many of these images are viewable in detail online but do not download at sufficient resolution. Need to explore further.)

London, Wellcome Library

Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum Open Content Program (FAQ about Getty Open Content

Philadelphia Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection of Manuscripts

Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania, Rare Book and Manuscript Library 

Schaffhausen, Stadtbibliothek (e-codices)

Solothurn, Zentralbibliothek (e-codices)

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)

Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh

Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Papyrology Collection (Link to items containing Latin)

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum (See this note on the Walters’ updated license removing the NC restriction.)

Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) or Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

All of the repositories in e-codices except those listed above in the Public Domain section are licensed CC BY-NC 4.0.

Cambridge, Cambridge University and College Libraries, Cambridge Digital Library (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Lichfield, Lichfield Cathedral Library (St. Chad Gospels and Wycliffe NT only; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Other liberal licensing:

Antwerp, Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience (Items download as PDFs. “Dit mediabestand valt onder de modellicentie voor gratis hergebruik van de Vlaamse overheid. De beherende instelling doet geen afstand van mogelijke intellectuele rechten, maar het mediabestand en de metadata mogen worden hergebruikt voor ongeacht welk doel, gratis en onder minimale restricties. Bronvermelding is noodzakelijk. Indien dit beeld gebruikt wordt in een publicatie, ontvangt de betrokken instelling graag een exemplaar van deze publicatie voor opname in de eigen collectie.”)

*re the book: I am undecided at this point about via what channels and in how many forms this book would be made available—decisions that will affect and be affected by the choice of image sources. Stay tuned for blog posts on that subject.