Manuscripts Online - Written Culture from 1000 to 1500


Federated searching of primary resources relating to written and early printed culture in Britain during the medieval period.

Project Status:





University of Sheffield
Queen's University Belfast
University of Birmingham
University of Glasgow
University of Leicester
University of York


early printed books, English studies, federated searching, historical records, history, large datasets, linked data, manuscripts, medieval period, online resource, text data mining


API, CSS, HTML, Lucene, MySQL, Natural Language Processing, PHP

HRI Online Publication

Project Description

Manuscripts Online enables users to search an enormous body of online primary resources relating to written and early printed culture in Britain during the period 1000 to 1500.

A single search engine enables users to undertake sophisticated full-text searching of literary manuscripts, historical documents and early printed books which are located on websites owned by libraries, archives, universities and publishers. Users are able to search the resources by keyword, but also by specific keyword types, such as person and place name, date and language (eg. Middle English, Latin and Anglo-Norman), thanks to techniques which we are using called automated entity recognition. Additionally, users are able to plot results on a map of Britain and create their own annotations to the data for public consumption, thereby building a knowledge base around this critical mass of primary source data.

Automated entity recognition is a Natural Language Processing technique within information science whereby algorithms are able to intelligently identify the occurrences of specific types of words, such as names, concepts and terminology, using three methods: dictionaries (such as a historical gazetteer of place names), lexical pattern matching and syntactic context.

Manuscripts Online will be of interest to researchers and students in the fields of medieval English language, literature and history. It is a sister site to the JISC-funded Connected Histories website ( which already provides similar search services for the period 1500-1900.

Project Duration: November 2011 – January 2013

Project Team

  • Dr Orietta Da Rold (Co-Investigator, University of Leicester)
  • Prof. Wendy Scase (University of Birmingham)
  • Prof. Jeremy Smith (University of Glasgow)
  • Prof. Linne Mooney (University of York)
  • Prof. John Thompson (Queen’s University Belfast)
  • Dr Estelle Stubbs (Research Associate – University of Sheffield)
  • Dr Sharon Howard (Project Manager – University of Sheffield)
  • Katherine Rogers (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Matthew Groves (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Michael Pidd (Principal Investigator – University of Sheffield)