Houghton Library has a famously strong collection of richly illustrated medieval manuscripts, many of which can be viewed online here. But, if your eyes grow weary of beautiful illuminations, I invite you to explore our collection of charters relating to the Cistercian abbey of Buckland in Devon, England (MS Lat 10, digitized here). While less visually compelling than many of Houghton’s medieval codices, this collection offers an opportunity to brush up on relatively easy (because formulaic) Latin. The deeds—almost all indentures—span from shortly after the monastery’s foundation in 1278 up to nearly the dissolution of the monastery in the late 1530s, allowing you to readily compare documentary hands across centuries while also getting a view into the social and economic networks of the abbe.
If the Latin paleography is not enough of a challenge, I would suggest using the fantastic deed identification flowchart from the University of Nottingham to test whether you can identify the specific types of documents represented in the collection.
Thanks to Sara Powell, Assistant Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts, for contributing this post. Houghton From Home is a series of posts highlighting our digitized collections. For more items from across the Harvard Library, visit Harvard Digital Collections.