From Beowulf to Chaucer, the British Library makes 1,000 years of rich literary history freely available online

The British Library has made over 50 rare medieval manuscripts and early print editions, spanning 1,000 years of literary history, available for free on its Discovering Literature website.

Highlights include:

  • The single surviving manuscript of Beowulf, the longest epic poem in Old English
  • The earliest autobiography in English, The Book of Margery Kempe
  • The Wycliffite Bible, the first complete translation of the Bible in the English language
  • William Caxton’s pioneering illustrated print edition of The Canterbury Tales
  • The first work authored by a woman in English, Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love
  • The earliest work of theatre criticism in English, Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge
  • One of the greatest collections of Scottish medieval verse, the Bannatyne Manuscript from the National Library of Scotland
  • Bringing together over 50 unique medieval manuscripts and early print editions from the 8th to 16th centuries, Discovering Literature: Medieval presents a new way to explore some of the earliest works and most influential figures of English literature. From the first complete translation of the Bible in the English language to the first work authored by a woman in English, the website showcases many rarities and ‘firsts’ in the history of English literature.

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