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Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00 - 17:00
Sundays & Bank Holidays: 12:00 - 17:00

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Collection Highlights

The Museum’s collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts is unrivalled in public museums. It spans the period from the ninth to the  sixteenth century and represents all major schools of European illumination. The vast majority of medieval painting was created on the pages of illuminated manuscripts. Less exposed to the elements and protected between solid covers, manuscripts preserve their original pigments fresh and largely untainted by later treatment or neglect. They are the richest source of information on all aspects of contemporary life, and double as portable galleries of paintings, the most representative of all surviving media of medieval and early Renaissance art. Viscount Fitzwilliam’s bequest, together with subsequent bequests and donations, notably the over 200 manuscripts left by Frank McClean in 1904, laid the foundations on which the collection continues to grow. 

The manuscript collection also includes examples of the renewed interest in calligraphy and illumination in modern days, starting with the Gothic Revival and Arts and Crafts Movement, and extending to the present day. Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century masterpieces by William Morris, Graily Hewitt and Florence Kate Kingsford, acquired by the enterprising Sydney Cockerell, were joined by the Museum’s newly-formed collection of contemporary calligraphy. Assembled at the initiative of Patricia Lovett, a world-renowned doyen of calligraphy, the latter represents the finest examples of lettering created by calligraphers in the UK and overseas between the 1960s and the early 2000s.  

Projects

  • Cambridge Illuminations Research Project

    Begun in 2003, the principal aim of this project is to produce a multi-volume series of catalogues of some 4,000 illuminated Western manuscripts and incunabula at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Cambridge Colleges. Initially funded by a three-year grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project is now supported entirely by a private sponsor.  The team, led by Professor Nigel Morgan and Dr Stella Panayotova, currently includes Dr Lynda Dennison, Dr Deirdre Jackson, and Dr Suzanne Reynolds. 

  • MINIARE: Manuscript Illumination: Non-Invasive Analysis, Research and Expertise

    MINIARE is a cross-disciplinary project using advanced methods in the physical sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences to examine artists’ materials and techniques in illuminated manuscripts.  It is led by the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books in collaboration with colleagues across the humanities, social and mathematical sciences.  The Project’s current focus is on Western European manuscripts produced between the 6th and the 16th century. This phase of the project is the research platform for the Museum's bicentenary exhibition COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts, (30 July - 30 December 2016) 

Online Exhibitions

  • COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts

    This online exhibition presents a selection of the manuscripts displayed in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s bicentenary exhibition COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts (30 July – 30 December 2016). An exhibition of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts is a fitting celebration of the Museum’s bicentenary. The Fitzwilliam preserves the finest and largest museum collection of illuminated manuscripts in existence, and manuscripts were at the heart of the Founder’s collection with which the Museum was established in 1816. Among the treasures which Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745-1816), bequeathed to the University of Cambridge were 130 illuminated manuscripts.