Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gruuthuse manuscript: a medieval and online jewel

Recently the Dutch National Library has recently acquired the manuscript Gruuthuse, a medieval jewel. Within two weeks after acquisition a multimedia website was turning a medieval jewel into a online jewel.

The Gruuthuse manuscript is a unique fourteenth century songbook. It is one of the most important sources for the medieval literature of the Lowlands and is seen as the precursor of the Dutch language The manuscript contains for example the poem and song Egidius where have you gone (see illustration), which deplores a deceased loved one. The manuscript brings more emotions from the Middle Ages closer as there is the love song Alouette and the satirical Men song The songs are part of the soap of the Middle Ages. The manuscript was named after a ruler from Bruges Lodewijk van Gruuthuse and eventually got into the Belgian family Calhoun. The manuscript was bought by the Dutch National Library for some millions of euro with five institutes. The National Library possesses more medieval manuscripts such as Beatrijs, the Lancelot compilation and The Hague Song manuscript.

The manuscript has gone on exhibition immediately till April 2007. But to get it online was quite an effort. However as the National Library had already a model for this exercise in the published flash site The angling book of Adriaen Coenen (Het Visboek van Adriaen Coenen), the Gruuthuse acquisition was complete as an online site in two week time. The scanning was done by the Photographic Department of the National Library, while the design of the site was done by Fabrique. The scanning is done in such a way that the visitor can zoom in on the calligraphy, colours, wear and tear and the ink blots. The manuscript has a navigation bar presenting the pages, while floating boxes contain translations in Dutch of the original texts. Also a scientific background article in Dutch has been included. Of the songs recordings in separate mp3 have been included on the site.

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