Reviewed February 2019
Courtney Hunt, Art & Design Librarian
The Ohio State University
Facsimile Finder is a free database and online seller featuring facsimiles of illuminated medieval manuscripts for libraries, museums, or other interested parties. Although geared toward users interested in purchasing facsimiles, the site has the potential to be useful for both buyers and researchers studying medieval manuscripts.
Because Facsimile Finder is free, it is therefore available to anyone interested in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. However, to access all features of the site, users must sign up for a free account. By signing up, users can create saved “favorites” lists and view prices for secondhand facsimiles (not new from the publisher). If the user signs up with an academic email account, they can view all prices for a facsimile, including discounted library pricing, as well as search the database by price. Price information is likely a major reason patrons of this site would use it, so signing up for an account would be vital to enjoying full functionality.
The resource itself is fairly straightforward. There are options for finding manuscripts at the top of the page, under the search bar. Users can search using standard keyword searches via the Advanced Search function, or browse according to style, theme, date, country, type, language, and/or publisher. The site is mobile-friendly and can be accessed easily from a smartphone, though there is no companion app. There do not seem to be any accessibility features accounting for users with sight impairment.
Each manuscript on the site has a record that includes a “Manuscript Book Description” along with a “Facsimile Edition Description,” in addition to tombstone information that lists alternate titles, features, origin, theme, style, language, content, illuminations, script, and more.
The description of the manuscript itself gives fairly detailed background and stylistic information about the work--useful for faculty and students as well as librarians and museum collectors--while the “Facsimile Edition Description” lists various facsimile editions of that manuscript along with details regarding the binding and physical features of the object itself.
There are also short videos that show selected facsimiles as they are thumbed through. These videos do not offer much in terms of description or interpretation (though they do include some brief text description throughout), but they could be used as a teaching tool or to get a better idea of the quality of the facsimile. For instance, the videos for Jean Pucelle’s Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux or the Carolingian Psalterium Sancti Ruperti are particularly helpful for an understanding of scale, as they are both exceptionally small books. In the videos, they are held by someone’s actual hands, which offers both a purchaser of facsimiles and students of medieval book art a sense of the actual size of the object, useful in conveying the intended use of the original manuscript.
Another interesting feature of this resource is the Bookplate blog, which allows the Facsimile Finder team to explore particular manuscripts or related content in greater and more personal detail. For example, the post on “Discovering the Art of Micrography” details the technique of micrography and how, where, and by whom it was used in manuscripts.
Though researchers in medieval manuscripts will find Facsimile Finder helpful, it serves primarily as a jumping off point. Full digital facsimiles such as those available via The Morgan Library are not an option; rather, Facsimile Finder deals in the selling of print editions. In addition, it does not compare with resources such as ArtSTOR that offer both detailed description information and high quality zoom tools for research. With the understanding that it is a marketplace first and a research tool second, users should still find it a valuable resource.
Overall, Facsimile Finder is an easy-to-use database of manuscript facsimiles that both buyers and researchers of manuscripts will find useful and informative. Because it is a resource geared toward selling a product, those simply interested in exploring manuscripts may overlook it. Those who do stumble upon it will find a robust resource with detailed background information on a great number of medieval manuscripts.