– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.


Though November be the month to ‘remember, remember’, though we say ‘lest we forget’ around this time of year, sometimes we do forget. Corporate as well as individual memory can fail, and in this case it seems to have done – temporarily, I hope.  The casts above have come adrift from their identities. The first head and hand are said to be those of Arthur Hugh Clough. I have no idea who the second is supposed to be; it’s not listed in any of the collection catalogues I’ve come across – yet. None of the three items has any identification written on or stored with it. There is a story that Benjamin Jowett was once given the skull of Oliver Cromwell, and bequeathed it to the Ashmolean. This is highly unlikely, but the supposed death mask of Clough (the bearded full head) does look remarkably like several examples of what are said to be death masks of Cromwell – though not at all like others. So who are they really, and how can we tell?

I am currently sorting out a lot of old correspondence and deposit documentation about the collections, and it may be that some clues turn up there. But the mystery will continue for a while…

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