The story of Silence, a girl brought up as a boy; the imprisonment of Elizabeth Swillington, mistreated to get her to sign over her inheritance; John Gower’s poem ‘Traitié…pour essampler les amantz marietz’, praising fidelity in marriage; devotional literature presented as a moral alternative to tales of knights and their quests; controversy over women dressing and adorning themselves to make themselves more attractive to men; lax standards in the nunnery at Markyate; and the inspirational stories of female saints – just some of the glimpses of life in the middle ages which appear in Wives, Widows and Wimples, Nottingham University’s web resource based on their medieval collections.

Decorative flourish from the Wollaton AntiphonalWives, Widows and Wimples’ features full-size digital images of 46 text extracts from original medieval manuscripts, 11 details of illuminations, miniatures or bindings from those manuscripts, and 5 extracts from later printed volumes, all relating to women, and their place in the society and literature of the middle ages. ‘Zoomify’ technology allows you to see the digital images in detail, and to scroll around each page. Many of the pages are decorated with miniature illustrations or decorative flourishes, and are very attractive to look at.

The web resource is a core activity of the Lottery funded Wollaton Library Collection project, and a collaboration with academic colleagues from the University’s Institute for Medieval Research. I co-ordinated work on the resource, and started to source extracts in June 2008. The manuscripts in the Wollaton Library Collection are written in the medieval languages of 13th-century French, Anglo-Norman, Latin and Middle English, so I was indebted to published editions of the texts (especially to those which were also translated!) and to the expertise of academic colleagues who suggested passages.