Manuscripts and Special Collections

About The Project

This web resource contains material from many of our medieval collections, but particularly the Wollaton Library Collection (WLC). This collection was the subject of a Heritage Lottery Fund award to secure the future of the collection at the University of Nottingham and to undertake work on cataloguing, preservation and other activities. The HLF project aimed to raise awareness of the manuscripts and to improve understanding of them.

The resource is part of our series of Learning Resources based on our collections. It is designed to appeal to a wide variety of users, including A-level students, further and higher education students and researchers, and lifelong learners.

No knowledge of medieval languages is required, as the resource includes modern English summaries of all the handwritten documents.

Heritage Lottery Fund logo 

About the site

This site presents source material within 12 themes, grouped into four main subject areas

  • The position of women in society, including women as property owners 
  • Marriage, marriage arrangements, and mistreatment of women through abduction, forced marriage or prostitution
  • Education, culture, morality, dress and punishment
  • Religion, including the veneration of saints and the pattern of the Christian year

The website is designed as a showcase for our medieval collections, and is not a comprehensive survey of any of these themes in their widest historical or literary context.

Each theme offers:

  • A selection of images of original material including literary texts, illuminated manuscripts, deeds and documents
  • All manuscript material is accompanied by a transcript of the original, and a summary into modern English
  • Commentary designed to assist users in their understanding and interpretation of the original materials

There are also overall supporting resources to enable users to place the original documents in context. These include:

  • Timeline
  • Glossary
  • Further reading


About the sources

The original sources are all held by the Manuscripts and Special Collections Section at the University of Nottingham, with the exception of the alabaster statue of St Zita, which is used by permission of the Nottingham Castle Museum.


About the transcripts and modern English summaries

Decorative heralds from The Wollaton Antiphonal


The project team aimed to produce transcripts which reproduced the text of the original source document as much as possible, retaining the original spellings, layout and punctuation. The letters 'u', 'v', 'i' and 'j' have been shown as they appear, rather than edited to conform to modern usage. The letters thorn (þ) and yogh (з) are retained, in both upper and lower case forms. However, the initial letter of each verse line has been transcribed in upper-case, whether or not this is shown on the document. Line breaks have been maintained.

No punctuation has been added unless it is shown on the page, and scribal errors have not been corrected. Words missed out and then inserted by the scribe over a caret mark are transcribed where they were intended to appear. Words lost because of damage to the document have been inserted in square brackets, if it has proved possible to reconstruct them from published editions or the sense of the text.

Abbreviations have been extended, and are shown in the transcripts in bold. The intended spelling of abbreviated words is in some cases a matter of judgement, making reference to the spelling of full words elsewhere in the document, or the most usual convention at the time the document was written.

Diactritic marks evident on some documents have not been added to the transcripts; researchers are invited to draw their own conclusions as to their effect on the metre or meaning of the words.

The transcripts were marked up using XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language) following the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) guidelines. Emphases, abbreviations and punctuation marks are rendered as follows:

  • Decorated initial capitals > italics
  • Abbreviations > bold
  • Limned paraph marks > ¶
  • Unlimned paraph marks > %%
  • Punctus elevatus > $
  • Full stop > transcribed only where it can be seen. A mid-line punctus is transcribed with a space either side. The final punctus at the end of a line is transcribed without a space 

Modern English summaries

Translators were briefed to produce readable summaries from the medieval French, Anglo-Norman, Middle English and Latin into modern English. Rhyme and metre were disregarded, in order to create translations which accurately reflected the contents of the source material, but which were not necessarily written in the same word order, and which did not always use the line structure evident in the originals.

Any queries about any of the transcripts or translations should be directed to Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham.


Terms of use

All content of 'Wives, Widows and Wimples' is copyright to the University of Nottingham. The materials on these pages (including all commentary, transcripts, translations, images, etc.) are made available free of charge for personal, non-commercial use only. Some items appear with the permission of owners of documents. Any individual or body intending to publish elements of the site in any form or through any medium should inform Manuscripts and Special Collections of their intention, so that any restrictions on further reproductions can be identified. Any permitted use requires full acknowledgement of the source.

Any commercial use or publication of the site’s content without authorisation or acknowledgement is strictly prohibited; applications for licence enabling such use should be made to Manuscripts and Special Collections at The University of Nottingham, with full details about the proposed publication. Advice will be given on third party rights that may need to be cleared. 



If you wish to cite the website in a publication please list it with the URL, and the month and year you accessed it, as in the following example:

Wives, Widows and Wimples. Ed. K. Summerwill, The University of Nottingham. date you accessed the site e.g. April 2010 <>

Citations of specific documents or images which feature on the site should additionally have their reference numbers and the folio numbers of individual pages within a volume; e.g.:

WLC/LM/6, f. 201r: Heldris de Cornuälle, ‘Le Roman de Silence’, lines 2500-2529


Credits and Project Team

The Project is a collaboration between Manuscripts and Special Collections, Information Services and academic colleagues from the University’s Institute for Medieval Research. A core activity of the Lottery-funded Wollaton Library Collection project, it also benefited from the related research programme, "The Wollaton Medieval Manuscripts: Texts, Owners and Readers" funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It was published in April 2010.

The principal Project Team members have been:

  • Kathryn Summerwill, Dorothy Johnston and Claire Emery (Manuscripts and Special Collections)
  • Thorlac Turville-Petre (School of English Studies)
  • Gavin Cole (School of English Studies)
  • Julia Barrow (School of History)
  • Theresa Tyers (School of History) 
  • Pamela Grieg (School of English) 


Roles and contributions

Project development and initial scoping of themes: K Summerwill, D Johnston, E Archer

Selection of sources and images: K Summerwill

Transcripts (Themes/Documents):

  • G Cole (1/1; 1/2; 2/5; 6/1; 8/1; 8/3; 10/1; 11/1)
  • P Greig (1/4; 4/2; 6/4; 7/3; 7/5; 8/2; 9/5; 12/2)
  • T Tyers (4/1; 4/4; 7/2; 8/4; 9/2)
  • K Summerwill (all other transcripts)

Modern English summaries (Themes/Documents):

  • J Barrow (10/2; 10/5)
  • P Greig (6/1; 6/4; 7/3; 7/5; 8/1; 8/2; 9/5; 12/2); with G Cole (4/2); with K Summerwill (1/4; 11/2); with T Turville-Petre (11/1)
  • T Tyers (1/1; 1/2; 2/4; 2/5; 4/1; 4/3; 4/4; 5/4; 7/2; 7/4; 8/3; 8/4; 8/6; 9/1); with K Summerwill (9/2); with T Turville-Petre (7/1)
  • L V D Owen (1/3; 5/3)
  • K Summerwill (all other summaries); with T Turville-Petre (5/1; 10/1)

Commentaries: All by K Summerwill, except for those by P Greig (7/5), and T Tyers (4/3; 7/1; 9/1)

Timeline: K Summerwill

Glossary: K Summerwill

Further reading: K Summerwill

Editorial work: K Summerwill

Academic oversight: T Turville-Petre

Image processing, website design and delivery: C Emery, K Summerwill

Image metadata: K Summerwill, C Kelly

Image capture: M Bentley


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651