Free medieval literary gems

From its vast collection of 150 million items in more than 400 languages the British Library has now made over 80 rare manuscripts and early print editions available online free of charge. This brings together more than 50 works from the 8th to the 16th centuries with extracts of medieval drama, epic poetry, dream visions and riddles. They can be accessed alongside more than 20 articles that explore themes, such as gender, faith and heroism, written by contemporary poets, including Simon Armitage, academics and writers.

Highlights of the new website include: the single surviving manuscript of Beowulf, the longest epic in Old English; the earliest autobiography in English, The Book of Margery Kempe; the Wycliffe Bible, the first complete translation of the Bible in the English language; William Caxton's pioneering illustrated print edition of The Canterbury Tales; and the first work written by a woman in English, Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love. Other favourites include a unique manuscript of the mysterious, surreal poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (above) which survived a fire in the 18th century.

The British Library has already published on-line collections relating to Shakespeare and the Renaissance, the Romantic and Victorian periods and 20th-century literature.

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Lindsay Fulcher