A Digital Catalogue of Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts in Sweden

Digital Humanities Conference 2019

Utrecht, 10 July 2019

Dr Patrik Granholm, National Library of Sweden


  • A digital catalogue of medieval and early modern manuscripts preserved in Swedish libraries

  • Developed and maintained by the National Library of Sweden

  • From project specific database to national infrastructure

  • TEI is used for the manuscript descriptions
  • IIIF for the digitised manuscripts
  • Current status
    • 365 manuscripts (163 digitised)
    • ca 50 000 images
    • ca 12 000 authority files for persons, organisations, places, works, and bibliographical records

Codicological Principles

  • Medieval manuscripts have usually gone through several stages of production and use: expanded, taken apart, lost parts, rebound
  • These codicological units should be taken into account in cataloguing to distinguish different dates and provenances of various units
  • The manuscript descriptions and TEI-schema are structured around the notion of codicological units
  • The structure of the descriptions follows the structure of the manuscripts
    • The content, physical description, and history of each unit are described in separate <msPart> elements
    • Information common to all units, e.g. the binding, provenance, and bibliography, is described in the <msDesc> element


  • TEI is a suitable metadata format for scholarly catalogues
    • The structure corresponds to the parts traditionally used in cataloguing: description of contents, codicological description, provenance, and bibliography
    • Tagging enables advanced search queries
    • Descriptions can be linked to images and authority files
    • Can easily be converted to other metadata formats
  • The infrastructure is built using open source software
    • eXist-db, an XML database with indexing and search functionality, and functions for converting TEI to HTML and PDF
    • Images served with IIIF using IIPImage Server, Diva.js and Mirador
    • Web-based TEI editor built with React.js
    • Source code and TEI files available on GitHub


  • Infrastructure
    • Controlled vocabulary for cataloguing terms
    • Linked Open Data (Microdata, RDF)
    • Conversion of TEI to RDF and JSON-LD
  • Content
    • Conversion of legacy databases into TEI
    • All digitised medieval and early modern manuscripts at the National Library
    • Printed catalogues (OCR, data extraction)