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Medieval & Renaissance Studies

MEDREN: Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Duke Libraries

Primary Sources in the English Language and Translation into English


To find translations of works by canonical writers, use:

  • Duke Catalog /Worldcat Use the advanced search in the Duke Catalog or use Worldcat -- Search "Author" and limit language to "English"
  • HathiTrust  Primary sources and older translations may be in the public domain  
  • Online Medieval Source Bibliography This database provides a searchable bibliography of texts - from private letters, wills, and household accounts to literary works, philosophical treatises, chronicles, court proceedings, church records, and a host of other documents - that were written in the Middle Ages and are now available in printed or online editions and translations.
    Choose Subject subject= War - Military History: 900 entries; when you click an entry, you will find information about translation; check, for example   Dewing, H.B., trans., History of the Wars
  • Medieval narrative sources : a chronological guide : (with a list of major letter collections) (incl. notes about translations)
  • Medieval Digital Sources MDR is a curated database of peer-reviewed digital materials for the study of the Middle Ages. Users can browse an alphabetical list or search using controlled-vocabulary subject tags to find vetted online resources of many types, including: imagebanks; bibliographies and reference works; pedagogical tools; editions and translations; music and other multimedia collections; interpretative websites; and new works of digital scholarship.
  • Global Medieval Sourcebook s an open access teaching and research tool. It offers a flexible online display for the parallel viewing of medieval texts in their original language and in new English translations, complemented by new introductory materials.


Browse Medieval full-text primary sources with emphasis on "English"

For primary and secondary sources for the study of Ancient Greece and Rome

Use the bibliographies of scholarly works on Medieval topics to find references to authors and works (examples)

Example: British History Online

What are examples of primay sources for Medieval History?

One example of a Database that contains primary sources:

British History Online 

Look on the left for Urban & metropolitan

The following is a sampling of primary documents available in this database

  • City of London, Calendar of letter books; Records of the government of medieval London (1275-1509). 12 volumes.
  • Victoria County History: Middlesex; The local history of the county, organised by parish. 10 volumes.
  • Chronicles, surveys and diaries (London); Includes Stow's 'Survey' and the diary of Henry Machyn. 7 volumes.
  • Victoria County History: Essex; The local history of the historic county, organised by parish. 4 volumes.
  • City of London, Calendar of plea and memoranda rolls; Three volumes, covering period from 1323 to 1412. 3 volumes.
  • Cardiff Records; Calendars and transcripts of medieval and early modern records. 5 volumes.
  • Livery company records (London); 5 volumes.
  • Monastic and cathedral records; Cartularies and administrative records of monastic and cathedral churches. 6 volumes.
  • Edinburgh, Records of the Burgh; 4 volumes.
  • Victoria County History: Surrey; The local history of the historic county, organised by parish. 3 volumes.
  • Assize records; Assize records for London, 14th-16th centuries. 3 volumes.
  • Victoria County History: Warwickshire; The local history of the historic county, organised by parish. 3 volumes.
  • Historical Manuscripts Commission; Seven volumes from the Reports and Calendars series of the HMC. 3 volumes.
  • Parochial records; Churchwardens', parish clerks' and other parish records. 3 volumes.
  • Charters and Documents of Glasgow; Transcripts of charters and documents, 1175-1649. 2 volumes.
  • Lay subsidy records; Records of this occasional wealth tax (13th to 16th centuries). 3 volumes.
  • Wills and inventories; 3 volumes.
  • Register of the Freemen of York; The Surtees Society edition of admissions to the freedom of the city, 1272-1759. 2 volumes.
  • Eyres, records of; Records of courts of itinerant justices (13th century). 2 volumes.
  • London property sources; 2 volumes.
  • Feet of Fines; Final concords for Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Sussex and Yorkshire. 2 volumes.
  • Calendar of early mayor's court rolls: 1298-1307; Nine rolls, covering a formative period in the history of the City of London, and illustrative of ancient municipal law and legal custom.
  • A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 part 1The City of Chester: General History and Topography; This is the first of two volumes providing an authoritative and detailed treatment of Chester's history, meticulously researched from the original sources.
  • A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4; Detailed local histories of the city of Liverpool, Wigan and most of greater Manchester. The rest of Merseyside is treated in volume III.
  • A History of the County of London: Volume 1London within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark; Part-volume, covering the history of the religious houses of the borough of Southwark and the cities of London and Westminster.
  • A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 4The City of Oxford; The political, economic, social and religious history of Oxford.
  • A History of the County of York: the City of York; The volume takes both a chronological and a thematic approach to the history of the City of York from before the Norman Conquest to the twentieth century.
  • A Dictionary of London; Historical notes of streets and buildings in the City of London, including references to other relevant sources.
  • Physicians and Irregular Medical Practitioners in London 1550-1640 Database; Biographical database of medical practitioners in London in a key period in the history of medicine.
  • The church in London 1375-1392; Details ecclesiastical property and the taxation of the clergy in the City of London. Also included are Acta of William Courtenay, Bishop of London. By kind permission of the London Record Society.
  • A History of the County of Worcester: volume 3; Covers two parts of the historic county: firstly, the hundred of Halfshire in the north-east, which includes several areas now within the greater Birmingham area, including Dudley, Halesowen and Yardley. Accounts are given of Kidderminster, Droitwich and Alvechurch. Secondly, the volume also covers the hundred of Oswaldslow, which largely encircles the city of Worcester.
  • A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2; A part-volume detailing the religious houses of the county. Includes accounts of the early history of Canterbury and Rochester cathedrals, and of several sites now within the conurbation of London.

 And much more 


Duke Databases:

  • Early English Books Online
    Early English Books Online reproduces over 125,000 books, pamphlets and broadsides published in English between 1475 and 1700.
  • In Principio
    Over one million incipits (the first words of a particular work), from the files of the Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library,
  • British History Online 
    Digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and early modern history of the British Isles.
  • Medieval Family Life
    Provides images of the original medieval manuscripts that make up selected family collections, with access to full text searchable transcripts of many of these manuscripts. 15th century
  • Medieval Travel Writing 
    Provides a collection of manuscript materials for the study of medieval travel from libraries around the world and dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The main focus is accounts of journeys to the Holy Land, India and China.
  • Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online  (MEMSO)
    Provides a collection of digitized editions of texts covering Britain and its place in the world during the medieval and early modern period (c. 1100-1800). Includes key printed sources for English, Irish, Scottish and Colonial history.
  • Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275-1504
    Provides fulltext access to the Rolls of Parliament (Rotuli Parliamentorum), which were the official records of the meetings of the English parliament from the reign of Edward I (1272 – 1307) until the reign of Henry VII (1485 – 1509).
  • Witchcraft in Europe and Americ
    Witchcraft in Europe and America is a comprehensive collection offering a wide range of writings on the subject of witchcraft dating from the 15th-20th century.
  • Patrologia Latina Database 
    the full text of works of the Church Fathers from Tertullian in 200 AD to the death of Pope Innocent III in 1216
  • Library of Latin Texts, Series A - Library of Latin Texts, Series B
    Corpus Christianorum (CC) contains texts from the beginning of Latin literature (Livius Andronicus, 240 BC) through to the texts of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)
  • Monumenta Germaniae Historica
    A comprehensive series of published sources for the study of medieval German history.
  • Europa Sacra 
    Provides coverage of medieval Church prelates, information on all 1300 medieval bishoprics, archdioceses and patriarchates under obedience to Rome. Europa Sacra also provides prosopographical information on bishops, archbishops and patriarchs.

A Selection of Trusted Internet Sites

The following internet sited provide opportunities to browse digitized primary sources; this list is a small selection of trusted sites

FEATURED: MacKinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations at UNC


Manuscript Collections

What is a manuscript?

From the Latin phrase codex manu scriptus. Strictly speaking, a work of any kind (textinscription, music scoremap, etc.) written entirely by hand. A medieval manuscript is one written in Europe prior to the invention of printing from movable type in about 1450 (see this example). Also refers to the handwritten or typescriptcopy of an author's work as submitted for publication, before printing. In the United States, bibliographic control of manuscript collections is provided by the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC), a cooperative cataloging program of the Library of Congress. In AACR2, manuscripts are cataloged under the rules for printed books.

The Schøyen Collection is a large private manuscript collection (Oslo and London). Illuminated manuscripts can be seen in the online exhibitions Leaves of Gold(Philadelphia area museums and libraries), Treasures of a Lost Art (Cleveland Art Museum), and the CORSAIR database, courtesy of the Morgan Library. See also theMedieval Manuscript Manual (Central European University, Budapest) and The Making of a Medieval Book (Getty Museum). Abbreviated ms. and mss. in the plural. See also: manuscript bookmanuscript map, and Manuscript Society, The. Source ODLIS

Lists of digitized manuscript catalogs and multi-library medieval manuscript databases (slightly edited from the post by Klaus Graf at )