Navigating Mandragore

A guide for using Mandragore, a manuscript database at the website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France – for those who don’t speak French.

What do you want to find, and how do you want to find it?

I want to find illustrations of a specific item (or a historical person, character, role, etc.)
  1. Find the French word for the thing you’re looking for.

    Let’s say, for example, that you want to find illustrations of sandals. The French word for “sandal” is sandale.

    I like using Google Translate and/or Wiktionary to help find the right French word for the thing I’m looking for. Sometimes, especially if it’s the name of a character or a person, I check Wikipédia France to double-check whether the French name is correct.
  2. Go to a search engine, and enter the term in the search window, limiting the search to the Mandragore section of the BNF site.

    Continuing to use the same example, I go to Google and enter the following phrase into the search window: sandale

    … and then, of course, click the Search button.
  3. The search engine will suggest a page with all of their illustrations with item in question, or to a page that will at least take you to that page.

    In our example, it suggests this page: sandale - Mandragore.
  4. If you click on the “Images” button, it will show you the illustrations, with a brief caption.
  5. If you click on the Mandragore Image icon next to a listing, it will just show the illustration associated with that listing.
  6. If you click on the bold text, it will supply a bit of information about the manuscript (usually including the author or title, and roughly where and when the manuscript was produced).
I want to find all illustrations related to a specific manuscript.
  1. Go to
  2. In the blank marked “Cote” enter the manuscript number.

    For example, let’s say you’re looking for BNF Fr. 289, a later 15th century manuscript of the Facta et dicta memorabilia. So, in the “Cote” blank, you enter the following term: Français 289

    By the way, to make that funny-looking ç character, you can either copy & paste it from this page, or just hold down the Alt key on your keyboard while you type in the number 0231.
  3. Click the button at the lower left-hand corner of the page that says “Chercher”
  4. This takes you to a general information page about the manuscript. On the upper part of the page, there are two places to click.

    “Images” will take you to the illustrations in the manuscript (with brief captions). You can view the images in a number of different layouts.

    “Légendes” will take you to a list of image captions, about twenty per page. (Here again, the Mandragore Image icon will take you directly to the illustration associated with that particular caption.)