– 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.

new exhibition in Oxford

 New exhibition in the Upper Library at Christ Church

“Books, etc… Tales of the Unexpected in Treasures from the Library”

This exhibition features works from the Special Collections of Christ Church Library. Most of these works are books. Some however are other objects bequeathed to the Library. The criterion which brings all this diverse selection together is the works’ capacity to tell a story beyond that illustrated by their content.

From the time an object is made until the day it enters a collection such as that of Christ Church Library, it may be displayed, used, and perceived in different ways.

Books, etc… encourages visitors to look carefully and think how these works were made, how they functioned and why they were collected. Take books, for instance: the fact that every volume is an object means that its evolving physical attributes can grant us access to a world of intellectual processes and social relationships.

Thus the jewel-like illumination of a manuscript such as the Wolsey’s Epistle Lectionary reflects the supreme, quasi-magical importance that miniaturists attached to the link between word and image.

Typographical variants, such as the one illustrated by the 1726 Malabaric Book of Common Prayer provide surprising insights into the labour practices of anonymous printers. Every material aspect of the printed book—format, paper, layout, typeface, quality of printing—is a clue to marketing strategy, authorial image, audience, and use. It is also important to remember that early modern readers judged a book by its physical qualities as much as content. Materials were expensive and labour was cheap; today, the reverse is true. This might better explain the richness of the binding of a printed edition of the Bible which was clearly meant for Queen Elizabeth I.

The exhibition, curated by Dr Cristina Neagu, will be open between 10 September to 11 November 2011.
Visiting hours Monday-Friday: 9.00 am – 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm (provided there is a member of staff available in the Upper Library).

For details, also see http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/library/exhibitions.

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