Quite by accident, while googling for a Latin incipit, my attention was drawn to MS. Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 20.2. Not, of course, to the online manuscript itself, which remained resolutely hidden to my Google search. But rather to the MirabileWeb page, here.
From this I learned much about this hitherto unknown (to me) manuscript. I did not learn the date of the manuscript – who needs to know that, eh?! – but I did learn that the 6th item in the book – a legendary for the whole year -, on folios “9-16”, is none other than the Life of St Nicholas by John the Deacon. It’s not even listed in the Bollandist BHLMs, but it’s a manuscript of our text alright, and a jolly nice one.
But is it online? Well, who knows? The digital library there is at http://mss.bmlonline.it/, which is as user-friendly as a cornered rat. I selected manuscript, Plutei, asked for more shelfmarks, and was able to find Plut.20.2, displayed with an obviously temporary address, as a mass of unreadable thumbnails. The site also told me that the manuscript is 11th century. So it’s a (capital letters on) Manuscript Of Significant Interest to us.
What I actually needed was way simpler: I needed http://mss.bmlonline.it/Catalogo.aspx?Shelfmark=Plut.20.2 Now that’s a great URL address! It’s simple, and it’s obvious. Someone at the BML site is on the ball! But I didn’t find any indication that this was the url on the site itself. I only discovered this trick accidentally while messing around with Google.
At least I now know how to find BML manuscripts online.
Now into the images. There’s no IIIF interface that I could see, so we are reliant on whatever browser the library staff (who won’t be using it themselves) care to give us.
At first sight it’s not too bad.
That’s a very nice, clearly written manuscript – all good – and all we need now is to download the part of it that I want.
Which you can’t do. No PDF download.
My next thought was whether I could get individual images – I only need a dozen pages – but no luck here either. There is a “download” of individual pages, if you right-click on them, except that it doesn’t do anything useful. All it gives you is a screen grab of whatever is on the screen – either a tiny image, or part of an image. No dice.
So I can’t actually work effectively with this manuscript, or consult it unless I want RSI from all the dragging and squinting. The BML ought to talk to the Austrians at manuscripta.at, if they want to force researchers to use their site.
In fairness this is clearly version 1.0 of the site. It’s hardly usable, but it’s still better than nothing. I can’t seriously work with the manuscript through that dreadful interface, nor can anybody else. But no doubt things will change.