been written by hand and not printed. Before the invention of the printing press, all texts were so written; thus, the majority of medieval works (with the exception of some 15th century texts) are manuscripts. As printing took some time to become widely available, a great many early modern texts exist only in manuscript form as well. Moreover, some authors, such as Sir Thomas Wyatt, preferred that their work be only available in manuscript even when the printing press was available for use.
Most medieval manuscripts were written on parchment, made of low-quality calfskin or sheepskin, though some were composed on vellum (thicker, high quality sheep or calf skin). Late Middle Ages texts were occasionally written on paper. Some, though not all, contained pictures called illuminations. These may have been simple decorations, or may have been related to the content of the manuscript; for instance, the manuscript that contains Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains elaborate illuminations that reflect the contents of the poem.
Today, British medieval manuscripts follow a consistent cataloguing system for the most part. Documents are labeled by city, library name, and then manuscript name. Thus, a work found in London, Lambeth Palace, MS 92 would be housed at the Lambeth Palace Library in London, and be labeled "Manuscript 92" on the shelf. There are some obvious exceptions to this standard practice (for instance, the exeter book), but this is, for the most part, standard practice.
See also Cotton Vitellius a.xv.
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