The Library’s collection of 27 medieval and renaissance manuscripts is small by world standards but it's one of the largest in Australia. The oldest item – De musica by Boethius – dates from around 1050. There are several beautifully illustrated books of hours, a famous choirbook, a magnificent manuscript from 1479 that belonged to the Medicis, and a number of workaday items.
The manuscripts were acquired between 1901 and 1949, many with funds from the Felton Bequest. Some illustrate the story of the bound book before printing; others are notable for their fine artwork. They were included in the Library's 2008 Medieval imagination exhibition and some can be viewed in the Mirror of the world permanent exhibition. They are used by scholars and in university courses, and Library staff give regular talks about them.
Because of the manuscripts' fragility and value, those wishing to use them must discuss their needs and possible alternatives with staff. The Library plans to digitise some of the manuscripts. We also hold many facsimiles of medieval manuscripts.