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Many manuscripts acquired by the University Library before the middle of the nineteenth century either originated as or were made up into bound volumes, and classified alongside printed material. Most carry what is known as a 'two-letter' reference, running from Dd.1.1 through to Oo.7.60.

Early descriptions of all two-letter manuscripts can be found in the Catalogue of the Manuscripts preserved in the Library of the University of Cambridge, 5 vols, Cambridge, 1856-67, and in the various catalogues to Asian & Near and Middle Eastern manuscripts. Items described in these catalogues were allocated running numbers, which should not be cited. Similarly, manuscripts are sometimes found described with a suffix indicating size - eg Dd.2.25(C) - but the size letter does not form part of the Library reference, and can be omitted.

Indexes and augmented, unpublished descriptions to the western two-letter classes can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Legal items can be found in J. H. Baker and J. S. Ringrose, A Catalogue of English Legal Manuscripts in Cambridge University Library (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1996). Descriptions of illuminated and decorated western manuscripts can be found in Paul Binski and Patrick Zutshi, with the collaboration of Stella Panayotova, Western Illuminated Manuscripts: a catalogue of the collection in Cambridge University Library (Cambridge: CUP, 2011). Further information is available concerning medieval manuscripts.

No item in the two-letter classes is restricted, but the Library's programme of conservation work may oblige us to make certain items unavailable for limited periods. It is always best to check the availability of any manuscript before visiting the Library.


Advance orders, and general enquiries should be directed to the Manuscripts Reading Room (01223 333143;

For more detailed information, contact the relevant curators: