November 3, 2011, by Andrew Burden
Medieval treasure to be opened to public view
The 15th-century Wollaton Antiphonal, the most stunning of the medieval manuscripts cared for at the University of Nottingham, is to be made available to the public using the ‘Turning the Pages’ technology pioneered by the British Library.
A research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), awarded to Emeritus Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre (School of English Studies), is enabling the creation of a virtual edition of about 40 openings, including all the richly-decorated folios. The project team is based in Manuscripts and Special Collections, where staff have completed the digitisation of the manuscript and explored use of the software. Curators and academic colleagues in the team are creating interpretative content to accompany the images.
The Antiphonal is a religious service book containing the music to the sung portions of the Divine Office. It was used in Wollaton parish church from around 1460 until the Reformation in the 1540s, when Roman Catholic service books in Latin were banned. Most Antiphonals were destroyed, but the Wollaton Antiphonal was saved by members of the Willoughby family and kept in the Library at Wollaton Hall until 1924 when it was returned to the church. The University of Nottingham has cared for the volume on behalf of St Leonard’s parish church since 1974.
The project will enable the Antiphonal to be seen once more in the parish of Wollaton, in digital form. In partnership with the church, the team plans to install a touch-screen kiosk, enabling visitors to browse the manuscript. A later development will deliver an online version of the publication for distant readers.
Providing public access to this important manuscript would not have been possible without extensive conservation work which has been carried out on the Antiphonal over the last ten years. This has been supported by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and other funders. It is finally coming to a conclusion, with the rebinding of the Antiphonal in two volumes. Details about the volume’s preservation history will be shown in the virtual publication.