||A new handwritten text database, GERMANA, is presented to facilitate empirical comparison of different approaches to text line extraction and off-line handwriting recognition. GERMANA is the result of digitising and annotating a 764-page Spanish manuscript from 1891, in which most pages only contain nearly calligraphed text written on ruled sheets of well-separated lines. To our knowledge, it is the first publicly available database for handwriting research, mostly written in Spanish and comparable in size to standard databases. Due to its sequential book structure, it is also well-suited for realistic assessment of interactive handwriting recognition systems. To provide baseline results for reference in future studies, empirical results are also reported, using standard techniques and tools for preprocessing, feature extraction, HMM-based image modelling, and language modelling.