– 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.

manuscripts

boxes

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Pre-before: Last week came the final batch of new boxes for Balliol’s medieval manuscripts! or mostly medieval. And mostly codices. The mss were measured up by OCC and made by the Bodleian’s PADS department – we all use them a lot and their services are quick, reasonable and brilliant. They’ve worked out a good system with the conservators, who can also make boxes when necessary, but use PADS for anything that’s custom-measured but without special requirements.

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Before: The assembled mss, most of which have had no packaging before at all. A few are being replaced, as their old boxes are not acid-free and/or don’t fit well, are wearing out, don’t provide adequate support or compression or padding, and so on. Some of the volumes still require conservation treatment, but it won’t change their dimensions in ways that will require a different box, so we can proceed with boxing now.

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This boxing campaign, which was interrupted for quite a while due to conservation planning hitches at our end, is now complete in the sense that there are no longer ANY unboxed manuscripts on the shelves! Boxes are the first defense against climatic fluctuations and all kinds of damage. There are still boxes and heavy four-flap folders that don’t fit well or could do with changing for other reasons. We have some beautifully made drop-spine solander boxes with wool felt linings, which is not great for our high-friction decaying half-calf bindings and is attractive to pests.  So we’ll be looking at changing or modifying those in due course. But the first stage of ‘a box for every book’ is complete, a satisfying milestone in the many useful outcomes of our 2014 condition survey of the manuscripts.

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This box-within-a-box is a cunning solution to a complex housing issue. A packet of unbound leaves sat under two small and rather dirty bound volumes inside this presentation box, lined with padded textiles and using ribbons to hoist the tightly-fitted package out of the lower part of the box. The new replacement gives an elegant nod to the ms’ history by retaining the arrangement of the former box (which will be retained as well, separately) but makes it easy to lift all parts of the contents out, and prevents the small volumes from knocking about with a card block inserted between them to fill the empty space.

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The old box.

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The presentation box was made to look like a book stored vertically – you can imagine this was not great for the contents, as the two small volumes were rather loose.

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After: manuscripts in their new boxes, with a few of the old boxes/wrappers that have been replaced but will be retained for historical purposes at the back. They are part of the manuscripts’ history and in some cases are interesting examples of state-of-the-art work of their time.

Many thanks to PADS! On to the next stage…


Hebraica exhibition

‘Look to the rock from which you were hewn’: Hebraica and Judaica at Balliol College

Historic Collections Centre, St Cross Church, St Cross Road

Michaelmas Term 2016

A guide to the exhibition

Exhibits selected by Professor Elliott Horowitz, Visiting Fellow and Oliver Smithies Lecturer at Balliol College 2014-15.

Captions compiled by Anna Sander from Prof. Horowitz’s forthcoming essay for the exhibition catalogue.

 

Introduction

We are indebted to Prof. Horowitz for shining a knowledgeable and sympathetic light on a previously rather neglected aspect of the College’s special collections, and bringing together such a wide range of fascinating text- and image-bearing objects in different formats from across nearly two millennia. Prof. Horowitz’s forthcoming companion essay details the many connections among the early producers of Hebrew texts, particularly in (and for) the early western European printed book market, their later collectors and scholars, and the 19th century Oxford academics, particularly theologians but also historians, linguists and antiquarians, who rediscovered an interest in Hebrew language and texts at Balliol and in the University. Medieval and later manuscripts and ancient coins are also included.

Prints of digital scans or photographs are used in the exhibition to complement original material: to show tiny details at a magnified size, and as a way of presenting pages from more than one opening in a codex, or both sides of a coin or letter.

1. Thomas Kelly Cheyne, Notes and Criticisms on the Hebrew Text of Isaiah , 1868. [Balliol Broad Street 1005 g 18]

2. Thomas Kelly Cheyne, The Book of Isaiah Chronologically Arranged: An Amended Version with Historical and Critical Introductions, and Explanatory Notes, 1870 [Balliol Broad Street 1005 g 20]

Robert Scott had been Master of Balliol from 1854-70, and Benjamin Jowett, who succeeded him, held the position until his death in 1893 – as was required of all Oxford dons, both were ordained Anglican clergy. Thomas Cheyne’s appointment to Oxford’s first fellowship in Semitic and Biblical studies at Balliol in 1869 came at a turning point in the leadership of the College, as well as in the study of theology at the University, where it made him ‘the first in Oxford to teach the methodology of biblical and textual criticism.’[1] Having studied at Göttingen under Heinrich Ewald after his undergraduate degree at Oxford, he was keen to adopt German scholarly methods of biblical criticism when he returned to Oxford as an ordained academic.

Notes and Criticisms on the Hebrew Text of Isaiah was Cheyne’s first book, published in 1868, when he was already  Librarian and Lecturer in Hebrew at  Balliol College, but not yet a Fellow. The historico-critical method of criticism which he advocated required a background of  rigorous linguistic study as well as historic contextual understanding. As we will see, the study of Hebrew by Christian scholars in western Europe is a long tradition, reflected in Balliol’s collections since the early days of printed books. Cheyne notes Ewald’s scholarly influence on his own work in the introduction to Isaiah Chronologically Arranged.

3. Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (1853 ed, trans. Tregelles). [Balliol Broad St 1055 f 15]

Gesenius, a German scholar, had first published his Hebrew and Aramaic dictionary in 1833 under the Latin title  Lexicon Manuale Hebraicum et Chaldaicum in Vetus Testamentum Libros. That work had been recommended to Thomas Arnold  early in the  1830s, and may also have served Stanley when he began studying Hebrew late in that decade. Thomas Cheyne was succeeded as Pusey and Ellerton Scholar by an even more serious Hebraist, John Purves (Balliol 1860, Fellow 1866), who later wisely acquired the Tregelles translation of Gesenius’s second edition; his copy is on display. The Latin title of Gesenius’s dictionary  clearly alluded to Johann Buxtorf’s influential  Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum,  which had originally appeared early in the seventeenth century and was republished well into the nineteenth.

4. Nicholas Crouch (ca. 1618 – ca.1690), Fellow of Balliol. MS 455.6, an unusual piece of direct evidence of a particular person’s use of a specific book: a single folio in Crouch’s hand, neatly copied in both Hebrew and Latin, from the introductory chapter of Crouch’s own copy of Buxtorf’s Epitome, with which it is displayed.

5. Johannes Buxtorf, Epitome grammaticae Hebraeae (Basel, 1613) [Balliol St Cross 30 b 227 (1)] – Nicholas Crouch’s copy. Shown in enlarged facsimile is the volume’s contents page, in Crouch’s hand.

6. Johannes Buxtorf, Epitome grammaticae Hebraeae (first published 1613, 6th ed pub 1669) [735 a 4]

7. Johannes Buxtorf, Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum, (first published 1602) [Balliol St Cross 735 c 5-8]

In 1613 the prolific Johannes Buxtorf (1564-1629), Professor of Hebrew at Basel and ‘the  principal founder of rabbinical study among Christian scholars’[[2]] published two important works on Hebrew lexicography and grammar: the  Manuale Hebraicum et Chaldaicum, a practical abridgement of a much larger work, and  Epitome grammaticae Hebraeae,  a revision of his earlier  Praeceptiones grammaticae de lingua Hebraea (1605).  Balliol owns two copies of the Epitome, one of the fifth edition, published in 1629, and another copy published  four decades later.  Its copy of the earlier edition, had been acquired for a shilling  by Nicholas Crouch (Balliol 1634, Fellow. Upon his death in 1690 Crouch, as John Jones has noted,  “left the College the choice of all his books.” Another of those  books, to which we shall return, was  a bilingual (Hebrew and Latin) edition of three medieval Jewish commentaries on a single chapter of  Psalms.

Buxtorf’s Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum  originally appeared early in the seventeenth century and was republished well into the nineteenth. The later edition of the Lexicon represented here was edited and expanded (to four volumes) by the Dominican monk Joseph Montaldi, published in Rome in 1789, and  was the earliest edition of  the Protestant Buxtorf’s  Lexicon  to appear in a Catholic country.

8. Abraham ben Meir de Balmes (ca. 1440-1523), Mikneh Avram, Latin title Peculiam Abrae [The Possession of Abram], first published 1523.

9. Daniel Bomberg [Baumberg], printer,  Rabbinic Bible [Mdrsh shmṿl …] Midrash Shemuel Samuel , 1546, [Balliol St Cross 550 e 2]

The Mikneh Avram is a bilingual work on Hebrew grammar, written in Hebrew and translated into Latin by the Italian  physician Abraham de Balmes, and printed in a side-by-side bilingual edition by Daniel Bomberg  shortly after the author’s death. Bomberg (van Bombergen, d.ca. 1549), a Roman Catholic printer from Antwerp, based in Venice, was one of the most important early publishers of Hebrew texts in the early decades of European printing.  His introduction gives his reasons for publishing a Hebrew grammar directed to non-Jews; humanistic scholars in the Latin west had a growing interest in the Hebrew language and particularly the Kabbalah.  The book is displayed with a page of Hebrew type on the left and Latin on the right; the languages switch positions in each opening. This will have allowed the typesetters to print all the Hebrew rectos and versos together, and the Latin together – a notable feat of typesetting, and of planning the layout to get all the pages of both languages in the right order. [Balliol St Cross 0560 e 16]

Bomberg’s Hebrew press produced the first Rabbinic Bible, which includes  the definitive text of the Tanakh (‘Hebrew Bible’ – source of texts for the Christian Old Testament) and several sets of interpretive notes and commentaries.

10. Augustin Calmet (1672-1757), Historical, Critical, Geographical, and Etymological Dictionary of the Holy Bible, first translated into English (from French) in 1732, [Balliol 100. s. b. 2-4, 3 vols.]

Roman Catholic scholars such as Augustin Calmet (1672-1757) appreciated the  importance of  masoretic materials (interpretive notes) – and hence Jewish editions of the Rabbinic Bible – for  Christian study of the Old Testament.  Calmet’s   Historical, Critical, Geographical, and Etymological  Dictionary of the Holy Bible (first published 1720, enlarged edn 1730) was  first translated into English  from French in 1732. He also recognized that medieval Jewish exegetes had made valuable contributions to biblical scholarship.   In his  survey of Jewish commentators on the entire Hebrew Bible, whom he listed separately from Catholic and Protestant ones, Calmet included  the Spanish-born Maimonides, “who wrote a great deal, and everything of his composition is very much valued.” The Benedictine monk  was clearly  familiar enough with the writings of  the Jewish  philosopher  to recognize that  his Guide of the Perplexed, originally written in Arabic, could be regarded as a commentary on the entire Hebrew Bible.

In the entry on “Massorah”[3]  in  his eighteenth-century dictionary  Calmet explained that “those Hebrew Doctors…called Massorites… have counted with a most scrupulous Exactness all the words, verses, and even Letters”  of every biblical book, so that “the Reading of the Bible may be fixed forever.” One of the chief features of the Masorah,  he  explained,  was the distinction between Ketiv and Kere – between the text as it should be written and the text as it should be read. Calmet noted  that this  distinction was maintained not only in cases where spelling or grammar might be equivocal, but also if  the written form  “was a Word which Modesty forbad to use, they put one instead of it which might be read.” Perhaps out of his own considerations of modesty, the monk did not provide examples.

11. Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204. Moreh nevukhim [Guide for the Perplexed] (first published in Venice, 5311 [i.e. 1551]). [Balliol St Cross 0590 b 12]

Just as Christian scholars eagerly made use of  Jewish coins, biblical  manuscripts, and printed editions of the Bible, so too were the writings of certain Jewish exegetes and philosophers particularly esteemed. Paramount in the latter category was Moses Maimonides.  One composition that came to be especially valued by Christians  was his philosophical work  Guide for the Perplexed, which had originally been composed in Arabic – the philosophic lingua franca of medieval Jews through the twelfth century – and soon after translated into Hebrew.

The late fifteenth century translation  by  Samuel ibn Tibbon had been composed in consultation with Maimonides himself;  the Venice 1551 edition [ʿim perush Shem Ṭov ve-ʿim perush ha-Efodi ] was the first to include the commentaries by Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov and Profiat Duran.

As a  Protestant critic of Roman Catholic doctrine, the French-born humanist  Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614) was particularly interested  in the chapter Maimonides devoted, in the first section of his “book of miscellaneous observations on sacred matters”  (I, 16),  to the various  meanings in biblical Hebrew of the word “rock” [tsur], which  could denote, the philosopher  asserted,  a mountain or hard stone, but might also be used “figuratively to designate the root and principle of every thing.” The figurative sense was the one that Maimonides favored with regard to Isaiah’s exhortation   “look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were digged (Is. 51:1, RSV),” an argument he supported by citing the  opening words of the verse immediately following: “Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you.” For Maimonides this meant that “the rock from which you were hewn is Abraham your father,”  the practical application being: “Tread therefore in his footsteps, adhere to his religion, and acquire his character.” Casaubon slyly suggested  that this figurative interpretation might also be applied to the words of Jesus  in Matthew 16:18: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”

12. Oxford, Balliol College MS 382. One of the finest extant examples of the complete Hebrew biblical codex (24 books), including  decorative  masoretic notes composed in intricate micrography. Given to Balliol College in 1804  by the Revd. Richard Prosser (BA 1770, Chaplain-Fellow of Balliol 1773).

The text was written on parchment by the Hebrew scribe Samuel b. Isaac de Medina and completed in Lisbon late in 1490, only a few years before the Jews were expelled from Portugal. Unlike most manuscripts and printed copies of the Hebrew Bible, it ends not with the books of Chronicles (1-2), but with the Five Scrolls, the last of which is the book of Esther. The last page of  Esther, and thus of the entire codex, was left unvocalized, leaving the impression of an uncompleted work by the manuscript’s otherwise scrupulous scribe. De Medina  did, however, compose a detailed colophon in which he gave both his name and that of  the person who commissioned the manuscript: Judah b. Gedaliah ibn Yahya. Much of the manuscript’s ownership history in the intervening centuries remains unclear.

13. Oxford, Balliol College, MS 427. One parchment membrane, text in Hebrew, the last section of a Torah scroll, containing the final chapters of Deuteronomy (chs. 32-34).  Written according to masoretic strictures , by a Jewish scribe. Purchased as a fragment in Tunis by the Rev. Greville Chester in 1865.

Chester (1830-92, Balliol 1849) amassed an enormous and wide-ranging collection of ancient and modern artefacts, both for himself and the British Museum, during his annual visits across the Mediterranean, which began in 1865. Following those visits he made numerous donations, as Gertrude Seidmann has shown, to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and to Balliol College  [MSS 364, 366, 371, 376, 377, 427, 466]. In our exhibition this scriptural fragment is contrasted with a complete codex of a Hebrew Bible – both would have been treated as holy objects, not merely authoritative texts, by the Jews who originally owned them.

14. Oxford, Balliol College Archives, Library Donors’ Register. Open to the page recording the gift to Balliol College of four volumes by Isaac Abendana (d.1699), a Hamburg Jew of Sephardic origin. Abendana, who had studied at the University of Leiden, taught Hebrew at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later at Magdalen College, Oxford. The gift entry, which records the book’s title in both Latin and Hebrew, is undated, but most likely occurred in the last decade of the seventeenth century, while the donor was teaching at Magdalen. Three of the books Isaac Abendana gave to Balliol are obviously relevant to Biblical and Hebraic studies, including the item above, Mikneh Avram / Peculiam Abrae, which is still in the College’s collection. The fourth may have been considered to have a link to Balliol’s history via Founder’s Kin Edward de Balliol (ca. 1249-1314, grandson of John de Balliol and Dervorguilla).

15. Three ancient coins: one minted by the Jews of Judea during their first revolt against Roman rule (66-70 CE), and two of the “Judea capta” series minted by the Romans several years later, showing the head of  Vespasian on one side, and a captive Jew on the obverse. . [Ashmolean Museum, Strachan Davidson Coin Collection: HCR9562, HCR21481, HCR21499]

James Leigh Strachan-Davidson (1843-1916; Balliol 1862, Fellow 1866, Master 1907-1916), an undergraduate at the time that Chester made his gift, later became a considerable collector himself. At the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887, held in London’s Royal Albert Hall, these three ancient coins from his extensive collection were exhibited. MS 382, the biblical codex donated by Prosser also displayed here was displayed in the same exhibition.  Strachan-Davidson left his coin collection to the College upon his death in 1916; they were first held in the Bodleian, and then in the Ashmolean. With the latter’s kind cooperation, and with thanks for their excellent images, this is the first time that they are being exhibited at Balliol

16. Siméon Marotte de Muis, In Psalmum XIX. Trium Ervditissimorvm Rebbonirvm commentarii, bilingual (Hebrew and Latin) edition of three Jewish commentaries on Psalms 19 (first published 1620). [Balliol 30 b 209 (7) and 630 a 21]

Maimonidean  ideas were able to spread to wider audiences, including Christian ones,  not only through the  Guide for the Perplexed, but through the publication of  biblical commentaries whose authors had responded to that multifaceted work. Among these was David Kimhi (known also by the name Radak), a resident of southwestern France who was an active member of the pro-Maimonides camp in the early thirteenth-century controversy over the latter’s writings.

Kimhi’s commentary on the Psalms, first published in 1477,  was particularly popular among Christian scholars despite its  occasional anti-Christian cricticsms – which were sometimes softened, and which in the 1517 Rabbinic Bible were  published separately.  English interest in Kimhi is perhaps best represented by Thomas Neale’s 1557 translation into Latin of the Jewish exegete’s  commentary on the last three of the Latter Prophets – Haggai, Zacharia, and Malachi. The volume, which appeared in Paris, was dedicated to Cardinal Reginald Pole.

Siméon Marotte de Muis, Professor of Hebrew at the Royal College of France, published  in 1620 a bilingual  (Hebrew and Latin) edition of three  Jewish commentaries on Psalm 19: Kimhi, Rashi  and the Spanish-born Abraham ibn Ezra. Balliol’s copy of the 1620 volume is from Nicholas Crouch’s personal collection.

17. Jonathan ben Uzziel (active 1st century CE). Chaldæa Ionathæ in sex Prophetas interpretatio: Michæam, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophoniam, Zachariam & Malachiam, Latinitate nunc primùm donate. (first published in Paris, 1559). [Balliol St Cross 30 c 259]

Targums (Targumim) are an important genre of Jewish scriptural interpretation: vernacular glosses, paraphrases or explanations of the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh). Parallel with the project of translating medieval Jewish commentaries into Latin,   from 1550 Jean Mercier (d. 1570), who preceded de Muis as  Professor of Hebrew at the Royal College in Paris, published there  several bilingual editions of the ancient Aramaic Targum, attributed to Jonathan b. Uzziel, on later books of the Hebrew Bible. That Targum, which combined commentary with translation, had been made widely available through the  two Rabbinic Bibles published by Bomberg, but  was well beyond the comprehension of  most Christians. Mercier’s project testifies to exegetical value attributed by sixteenth century Christian scholars to ancient Jewish traditions. Balliol owns a copy of his  bilingual edition of the Aramaic Targum on the last six books  of the Latter Prophets, which appeared in Paris in 1559.

18. Jakob Koppelman, Targum shel Hamesh Megillot bi-Leshon Ashkenaz (Freiburg) [Yiddish Targum] (first published 1584). [Balliol St Cross 560 b 16]

Not only Christians had difficulty understanding the  Targum attributed to Jonathan, which was   composed in Palestinian Aramaic rather than the Babylonian variety more familiar to students of the Talmud. In 1584, Jacob Koppelman published a Yiddish rhymed paraphrase of the  Targum to all  ‘Five Scrolls’  – including Song of Songs,  Lamentations,  Ecclesiastes, and Esther, as well as Ruth . Koppelman’s work, composed in Metz,  was published only once –  in Freiburg, 1584 and was intended, as stated on its title page, for  “men, women, and children (Jer. 40: 7).” Its dual intended audience – popular as well as learned – is reflected in the work’s bilingual nature. Side by side with the Yiddish paraphrase, Hebrew glosses were provided to explain  some of the Targum’s  difficult  terms. Parallel with its two languages, the  pages of Koppelman’s work  were printed in two colours  – an unusual and rather expensive process.  Hebrew sections appeared  in block red letters and Yiddish ones in black, set in the Vaybertaytsh font traditionally used for that Judeo-Germanic language.

19. Timberlake, Henry, True and Strange Discourse of the Travailes of Two English Pilgrimes (first published 1603). [Balliol St Cross 580 b 14]

As Calmet recognized, recent works of travel describing flora and fauna, peoples and their practices could be useful to early modern scholars  for understanding the Bible and its world  as well as translations and commentaries. Neither the scholars nor the travel authors they read had an adequate sense of how much Palestine and its environs had changed since biblical times; when the merchant  Henry Timberlake published his  True and Strange Discourse, an account of his  recent  travels in Palestine and Egypt with John Burrell, his subtitle  informed readers that it would include “notable memories” of those countries,  “concording with the ancient  remembrances in the Holy Scriptures.”

Like many Christian travelers over the centuries, Timberlake sought to show ‘how justly the Scriptures are fulfilled,” and one of his prime illustrations was that Jerusalem, as punishment to the Jews, had been made “a heape of stones” for some fifteen miles in each direction, and was “the most barrenest place in all Mesopotamia.” The only place he could compare it with in England “for the like sterilitie” was “the unfruitfull place in Cornwall, where there is nothing but rockes and stones.” Like many other European travel accounts, Timberlake attempts, not always accurately, to provide equivalent distances between places, based on his own country. Thus, “Gaza, which is the south-west part of Palestine, is from Jerusalem as Salisbury is from London.”  Timberlake’s brief but colourful account, which included descriptions of riding with ‘wild  Arabes’ on dromedaries, was frequently reprinted during the early seventeenth century, appearing seven times by 1620.

20. ‘T.B.’, A journey to Jerusalem, or, A relation of the travels of fourteen English-men in the year 1669… , first published 1672. [Balliol St Cross 30 a 22 and 580 b 14]

The semi-anonymous ‘T.B.’ prefaces his text with a “brief description of Palestine” presenting the entire country as being in a state of “utter desolation” on account of the Jews having crucified “the son of God.” This goes a step beyond Timberlake, who confidently confined the desolation to Jerusalem and its environs. The later account also provides interesting information on the fate of England’s Jews after their expulsion by Edward I.  Many, ‘T.B.’ asserted, fled to Scotland, “where they have propagated since in great Numbers.” As evidence of  the prominent presence of Jews in Scotland’s population the author cited “the Aversion this nation has above all others to Hogs-Flesh.”  This argument draws (silently) on James Howell’s assertion in his preface to The Wonderfull and Most Deplorable History of the Latter Times of the Jews, which was translated from medieval  Jewish sources and first appeared in 1652, soon proving popular in England.

‘T.B.’ does not, however, repeat Howell’s description of the state of the Jewish people since their exile from Palestine: “a kind of curse [had] fallen upon their bodies,” as evidence  to “the uncouth look and odd cast of eye whereby they are distinguished from other people.” That claim has well-known medieval roots, but unlike Howell, who wrote before the Jewish readmission to England, ‘T.B.’  would have seen Jews in person while travelling to and  from Palestine, as well as inside the country.  Although he judged the country to be utterly desolate as a consequence of divine punishment, he did not regard the Jews themselves as similarly cursed by God.

The above two items are in poor physical condition and are displayed closed, demonstrating their portable pocket size. Both are supplemented with enlargements of illustrations.

21. Thomas Shaw (1694-1751), Travels, or Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant. First published in 1738; 2nd ed 1757. [Balliol St Cross Arch. F.X.13]

Countering  more recent allegations than Timberlake’s of the desolation of Palestine was a concern for Thomas Shaw (1694-1751), an Oxford-educated Anglican divine, naturalist,  and classical scholar,  in his Travels, or Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant, first published in 1738. His purpose was not to demonstrate the fulfilment of divine prophecy, but rather  to question the veracity of scriptural descriptions of the Promised Land as flowing with milk and honey – i.e., as a fertile agricultural land.

Shaw acknowledged that the city of Jerusalem and the parts surrounding it were indeed “rocky and mountainous,” and had “been therefore supposed to be barren and unfruitful,” but responded that “a kingdom is not to be denominated barren or unfruitful from one single portion of it, but from the whole.”

During his time in North Africa as chaplain to the English “factory”,  an establishment for traders doing business in a foreign country at Algiers, he travelled to Egypt, Sinai, Cyprus, and Palestine (1721-22), and later visited  Tripoli and Tunis as well. On returning to England in 1733, he worked on his  Travels. His  research notes for that 1738 work (in the Bodleian)  show that he made use not only of his written impressions and drawings made while travelling, but also extracts from the second French edition of   Calmet’s Dictionnaire historique, even  before it appeared in English.

A previous owner of Balliol’s copy of Shaw was clearly contemplating a trip to Egypt, as the margins of its pages dealing with the Nile and the pyramids are  filled  with  handwritten  comments comparing his observations with those of other authorities, from Herodotus to Pococke. Other reader comments pertain to the respective uses of watermelons and camels.

22. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-81), Sinai and Palestine: In Connection with their History , (1856) [Balliol Broad Street Morier 32]

In 1852-3 Arthur Penrhyn Stanley  set off with three Oxford companions to visit  “the well-known scenes of Sacred History in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria. His 1856 work, based largely on letters he wrote while travelling,  was immediately popular; by the following year  there was already a fourth edition. Balliol owns a copy of that edition,  purchased in August of 1857  by  Robert Morier (1826-93) [Morier Collection 32] , who after concluding his studies  at Oxford pursued a diplomatic career, eventually becoming British ambassador to Russia.

Stanley, like Shaw sought to counter claims concerning Palestine’s alleged barrenness, asserting that its “countless ruins…tell us at a glance that we must not judge the resources of the ancient land by its present depressed and desolate state.”  Like Shaw, too, he was convinced that the sites of sacred history  had not changed since biblical times. Such travel was therefore a crucial component in fully comprehending the ancient biblical world.  “There is hardly any limit,” he further remarked,  “to the legitimate advantage derived by the historical and theological student from even such a transient glimpse of Eastern life which forms the basis of the previous volume.”

23. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-81). Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church (1863-76). [Balliol Broad Street 1005 g 1]

A decade after his initial sojourn in those Eastern lands, Stanley, by then Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford, was asked, partially owing to his Sinai and Palestine‘s great popularity,  to accompany the Prince of Wales (Albert Edward, 1841-1910) on his own first (and last) trip to the region. Shortly after returning from that royal journey,  Stanley published the first volume of his Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church (1863-76. As he explained in the preface, they had been addressed to his “usual hearers at Oxford, chiefly candidates for Holy Orders.”

In his initial lecture, devoted to “the Call of Abraham,” Stanley took issue with those who had criticized one of his ecclesiastical colleagues for describing Abraham as “a Bedouin Sheykh.” Anyone who had travelled in the East, he argued, could not disagree. “Every English pilgrim to the Holy Land,” wrote Stanley  – alluding perhaps not only to himself and his three initial companions, but also to the Prince and members of his recent entourage- “is delighted to trace and record the likeness of patriarchal manners and costumes in the Arabian chiefs.” He added that refusing to do so “would be to decline the use of what we may almost call a singular gift of providence.” God, he suggested – and Stanley, as he presumably realized, was not the first to do so – had intentionally held back, or preserved, the Holy Land from change so that Scripture could be better understood by subsequent generations.

24. Matthew Arnold, The Great Prophecy of Israel’s Restoration: A Bible Reading for Schools, 1872. [Balliol St Cross Arnold 8/1 and 2]

It was ostensibly in his capacity as Government Inspector of Schools that Matthew Arnold in 1872 published The Great Prophecy of Israel’s Restoration: A Bible Reading for Schools, a volume, intended  for “young learners,” of  Isaiah’s final twenty-six chapters (40-66). It is likely, however, that his decision to follow  the traditional order of chapters in the Authorized Version – and adhere closely to its language-  was intended as a response to Cheyne’s rather radical  Book of Isaiah Chronologically Arranged (1870). In his  introduction to The Great Prophecy   Arnold  acknowledged that his command  of Hebrew  was far from expert; nonetheless, he felt confident enough  to question and indeed criticise some of Thomas Cheyne’s corrections to the King James version.

Arnold was a literary intellectual of considerable weight, and  the young Balliol Fellow  felt obliged to respond – perhaps after consultation with Jowett, by the Master of the College,  who had also been  criticized (albeit more mildly) by Arnold.  Cheyne  published a  review of Arnold’s Isaiah in  The Academy, (19 Feb. 1876) in which he noted somewhat acerbically that although its introduction was “full of criticisms involving points of Hebrew scholarship,” the author’s knowledge of  that language  is as “a smoking flax” – alluding   ostensibly to Isaiah 42:3 in the King James Version. This in itself was clever enough, drawing on a passage included in Arnold’s volume. But as both Oxonians presumably recognized, the verse from Isaiah reappears in the Gospel of Matthew (12:20). Cheyne may have intentionally alluded to its derivative character in the Gospel as an additional dig at the derivative  Hebraic knowledge of his distinguished critic, who shared  the evangelist’s name.

* * *

After his death in 1915, Thomas Cheyne was  eloquently praised by the Harvard scholar  Crawford Howell Toy  for  “the variety of his learning, the vital character of his style, and his frankness and courage in the expression of opinion.” When Cheyne left Balliol for Oriel, upon being appointed  Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture, the College lost  its greatest Hebraic scholar ever. The books and objects included in this exhibit testify to its continuing engagement, over the centuries, with the Hebrew language, the Hebrew Bible, and the Hebraic tradition.

Most of the information in these captions is quoted directly from Prof. Horowitz’s essay for the exhibition catalogue, forthcoming.

 

 

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[1] Joanna Hawke, ‘Cheyne, Thomas Kelly(1841–1915)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32395, accessed 8 Sept 2016]

[2] Crawford Howell Toy, Meyer Kayserling, ‘BUXTORF (BUXTORFF), JOHANNES (usually called “Father,” or “the Elder”), 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia; online edn, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3860-buxtorf-buxtorff-johannes

[3] Masorah – authoritative text of the Hebrew Tanakh, the Jewish scriptural canon and a key source of the texts in the Christian Old Testament.

 

Resources and further reading:

Constructing Borders & Crossing Boundaries: Social, Cultural, & Religious Change in Early Modern Jewish History, An Online Exhibition from the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies 2013-2014 Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Libraries. http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/cajs/fellows14/

More of Nicholas Crouch’s manuscripts at Balliol College: http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Modern%20Papers/crouch.asp

Papers of JL Strachan Davidson at Balliol:

http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Modern%20Papers/strachandavidson1.asp


exhibition

Last week saw an exhibition of medieval manuscripts at St Cross, produced for a private event organised by a Fellow of the College.

Music and medicine in medieval manuscripts at Balliol College

10 February 2016

Displayed in cases (follow linked MS numbers for more images):

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MS 383. A particularly exquisitely written and illuminated 15th century copy of the French translation by Octovien de Saint Gelais, of Ovid’s Heroides. Open at ff. 84v-85r. The tenuous connection with medicine is that the grim and tragic stories of the Heroides have been cited as part of the literary tradition of ‘grief as medicine for grief’. The even more tenuous connection with music is the theory that Ovid may have intended the Heroides to be sung!

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MS 396. Five leaves of an early 14th century Sarum breviary, with musical notation, written in two columns of 28 lines with large red and blue flourished capitals. The leaves had been used as binder’s waste (endleaves etc) for a college account book, and were removed from its binding in 1898. They show considerable wear (from their post-liturgical existence) and chemical damage from glues, as well as early 20th century conservators’ interventions. The current fascicule binding is modern. The college’s own liturgical manuscripts, which would have been used daily in the Chapel, did not survive Edward VI’s Royal Commissioners – and may have ended up as just such waste, lining other bindings.

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MS 2. Late 13th century Bible, Italian, with very fine illuminated and historiated initials throughout. Open at ff.3v-4r, showing the Seven Days of Creation, accompanied by magnified prints. There is no definite information about how or when this book came to Balliol, but ownership inscriptions seem to indicate it must have been later than the 17th century.

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MS 283. 13th century copy of Etymologies by Isidore of Seville. Medieval encyclopedias were attempts to encompass the whole of classical and contemporary thought and learning on all subjects; this one, written in Spain in the early part of the 7th century, was one of the most popular western medieval texts.  Open at ff.50v-51r, showing entries on Medicine.

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MS 192. A 15th century copy of the Quodlibeta of Duns Scotus as abbreviated by John Scharpe, and Robert Cowton’s Commentary on the Sentences (of Peter Lombard) as abbreviated by Richard Snettisham. Both of the main authors were Franciscans, theological heavyweights and contemporaries, or near-contemporaries,  in Oxford in the late 14th century – their writings participated in, and in their turn became part of, a long tradition of theological verbal and written debate. No connection with medicine or music, but representative of the heavily theological content of the college’s medieval library. Open at ff. 66v-67r, part of a list of contents between the two main texts. The upper right of 67r shows several distinct cat paw prints – a recent news story about similar prints in a medieval manuscript got into the National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines, demonstrating the widening field of medieval codicology. Cats often feature in manuscript illuminations and scribal marginal doodles – here’s a post by Thijs Porck on the Medieval fragments blog, and one by Nicole Eddy from the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog.

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MS 317. A mid-12th century copy of Boethius’ De institutione musica, an influential summary of ancient Greek musical theory and a key text in the medieval quadrivium (secondary study: arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). Boethius emphasises the relationship between mathematics and music, and discusses the importance of music – a powerful influence with potential for good or bad – not only in society but upon the mind and body of the individual. Open at ff.53v-54r, showing one of numerous diagrams of the divisions of the scale, with names of the intervals.

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MS 250. A 13th or 14th century copy of several texts by Aristotle, written in Greek and widely read in Latin in the western Middle Ages, in the fields of philosophy (Rhetoric)  and  natural history (On the Movement of Animals, Problems, and the first book of History of Animals . Open at ff.41v-42r, showing the beginning of De Problematibus; the first section consists of medical problems, outlined in a list of contents. The illuminated initial is a good example; accompanying images show the scribal or later penwork decorations, chiefly of rather engaging birds and clusters of leaves and grapes.

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MS 173A. Two texts bound together, one from the late 13th century (ff.1-73) and the other from the early 12th century (ff.74-119), both collections of short texts, 16 in all, of medieval music theory. Authors include Avicenna, Isidore of Seville, Odo of Cluny and others. This manuscript also includes the text, with diagrams, of Guido d‘Arezzo’s famous treatise on music (De  Musica) – though the well-known ‘Guidonian hand’ diagram does not feature in this particular copy. Open at ff.75v-76r, showing coloured illustrations of musical instruments in a letter attributed to St Jerome  ‘de generibus musicorum’ (On the kinds of music) – the text explains the theological symbolism of musical instruments in the Bible.

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MS 231. A late 13th century copy of more than twenty texts on medicine Galen, as translated into Latin from the original Greek – via Arabic. The handwriting is typical of university (rather than monastic) scriptoria of the period, possibly from Paris, but it is difficult to be certain, as books, scholars, scribes and styles moved back and forth across the Channel. Open at ff.1v-2r, showing later ownership and contents notes on the left and the beginning of the text on the right. The motif of a dog chasing a rabbit or hare, seen here decorating the bas-de-page on f.2r, is a common one in medieval manuscript illumination and does not relate directly to the text. The text on 1v provides unusual amounts of provenance information for this manuscript: Stephen of Cornwall, Master of Balliol ca. 1307, gave it to Simon Holbeche, who first studied at Balliol and continued his medical studies at Cambridge, becoming a Fellow of Peterhouse. Holbeche bequeathed it to Balliol, enjoining the Master and Scholars to pray for the soul of their former Master, Stephen of Cornwall, in 1334/5.

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MS 329. A 15th century copy of four texts in Middle English: two lists of herbal remedies; a translation in verse by John Lydgate of Aristotle’s (attr.)  Secretum Secretorum, under the Latin title of De regimine principum (Advice to princes); and  Lydgate’s own The Fall of Princes.  Open at ff.15-16r, giving the Latin and English names and medicinal uses of plants, including Herb-Robert, mortagon (turk’s cap lily), woodruff, henbane and hyssop.

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MS 367. An 11th century copy, rebound in the 19th or 20th century, of an anonymous Antidotarium or book of remedies. Mostly of the later medieval (C13-14, Italian hands, in Latin) marginal notes add to the medical context of the main text, but one is a pen-trial (for testing a new quill) reading ‘Exurgens kaurum duc zephyr flatibus equor’.  This phrase is a pangram or holoalphabetic sentence, i.e. containing all the letters of the (Latin) alphabet. Open at ff.7v-8r; one figure uses a brush to paint ointment on the arm of the other, illustrating the first paragraph, which describes the use of salve against cancre. This manuscript, one of the oldest at Balliol, is one of the most recently acquired of the college’s medieval books; it was given by Sir John Conroy, comptroller to the Duchess of Kent (mother of Queen Victoria), probably ca 1900.

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MS 285. 13th century compendium of medical and religious texts by authors including Pseudo-Aristotle, Razes, and Ricardus Anglicus on medieval urinalysis. The volume is displayed open at a diagram of the hand, here used to illustrate a treatise on Anglo-Norman French, by the prolific Anon., on the principles of chiromancy or palmistry. The hand diagram was adapted by Guido of Arezzo for use in his famous treatise on music, and was widely used in the Middle Ages as a mnemonic device not only for teaching sight-singing, but also for outlining sermons, remembering prayers, and, of course counting; see Irene O’Daly’s article  on the Medieval Fragments blog.

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College archives: Foundation Statutes (1282)

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Charter of Incorporation, 1588

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medieval seal matrices and a John de Balliol penny

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Balliol’s oldest document: A charter regarding a grant of the Church of St. Lawrence-Jewry, London, with rents etc., from Robert, Abbot of St. Sauve, Montreuil, to John de St. Lawrence,  etc., ca.1200.

On open display:

MS 451. 15th century Book of Hours

Facsimile of the Book of Kells

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MS 238E. Domenico de Bandini, Vol 5 of Fons memorabilium universi ‘Source of notable information about everything’) – one of several medieval encyclopedias, already declining in popularity by the time this copy was made. This volume contains De virtutibus theologicis et moralibus, ‘On the theological and moral virtues’. Balliol’s copy, like most others, is incomplete but still runs to five generous volumes; its most notable feature, particularly prominent in this volume, is the large number of finely executed pen-and-ink marginal drawings. Many of the drawings illustrate the text, and evidently portray complex allegories; they have not yet been fully described or analysed. Unusually, the scribe (probably the main illustrator in this case) is named in the manuscript.

– Anna Sander


JCR viewing

This week, James and Anna set out a display of Interesting Things from the historic collections for the now-annual visit by current members of Balliol JCR.


guest post

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Oxford, Balliol College, MS 200 p.1

A guest post to close the research year at St Cross: 

Robert Cowton was an early fourteenth century theologian based in Oxford, and Balliol archives house three manuscripts containing some of his treatises. I spent my week on a “micro-internship”, organised through the careers service, digitising these manuscripts for a group of researchers based in Germany. Making the images available online will hopefully save them, and the planet, a flight over.  The three manuscripts, Balliol MSS 199, 200 and 201, are all executed in the same hand with matching decorations in red and blue ink.

I started off by photographing each of the pages attempting to give a clear and legible picture of the text. Wrinkles, curling pages and minute annotations did not make this an easy task. Handling a manuscript carefully and making the pages sit flat often seem to be diametrically opposed aims. If some of the pages are a little hard to read, this is because I have erred on the side of caution. Despite these challenges  it was a real pleasure to work with the manuscripts; getting to feel the parchment and see at first hand the way the skin has been stretched and tanned to make it fit to write on. The tiny marginalia left by successive readers; from the eighteenth century page numbering (often with corrections) to the little pointed fingers indicating important parts of the text show the continued life of a text in a way that a modern printed edition cannot.

Once I had finished photographing the manuscripts I then jumped to the other end of the temporal spectrum and attempted to upload the images to Flickr. In order to get both Windows Explorer and Flickr to read the right title field data, each file had to be named twice, in two different programs. Once I had got through the renaming and uploading process it was very satisfying to see the whole manuscript online, waiting to be read.

I am very grateful to Anna Sander, the college archivist, for giving me this opportunity and patiently dealing with my questions and problems, as well as to the staff at Balliol library for giving me a desk on Friday afternoon and covering my lunch in college during the week.

– Mary Maschio (Queen’s College)

Anna adds: Some of Mary’s images have already had dozens of views, and I am very grateful for her help furthering the progress of manuscripts digitisation and sharing. I also thank the Oxford University Careers Service for organising the microinternship scheme, and appreciate their consistently excellent pools of applicants for these placements!


antechapel display – medieval manuscripts

The second in the new series of small displays in Balliol antechapel of images from the archives: illuminated details from the western medieval manuscript books.

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(Numbers have been superimposed on the image and do not appear in the display.)

1. Balliol MS 277 f 43r. Reynard and Chantecleer, or perhaps just a fox carrying away his chicken dinner.

2. Balliol MS 13, f.24r. Images

3. Balliol MS 208, f.109r. Images

4. Balliol MS 367, f.16r.  Images

5. Balliol MS 232B, f.152r. Dragon, inhabiting a foliate initial D. Images

6. Balliol MS 238E, f.64v. Images

7. Balliol MS 384, f.52v-53r. Annunciation. Images

8. Balliol MS 129, f.83v. Homunculo-maniculum hooded figure. Images

9. Balliol MS 253, f.80v. Images

10. Balliol MSv 240, f.32r. Images

11. Balliol MS 103, f.88v. Images

12. Balliol MS 396. Images

13. Balliol MS 129 – series of elaborate manicula. Images

14. Balliol MS 238E, f.59r. An early depiction of a blind man using an assistance dog and a stick. Note the bells on both the man’s scrip and the dog’s collar. Images

15. Balliol MS 1, f.187v.

16. Balliol MS 208, f.109r. Images

17. Balliol MS 350, f.62r. Images

18. Balliol MS 13, f.18r. Images

More information about these and all the other medieval manuscript books at Balliol in RAB Mynors’ catalogue, and images of many of them on Flickr.


manuscripts boxing

The benefits of last year’s condition survey of manuscript books continue apace: during last year’s manuscripts condition survey, we listed 155 manuscripts either unboxed or inadequately boxed. Boxing is a quick and effective – and relatively inexpensive, depending on the type of box – way to protect all kinds of archival material from light, dust and handling damage, as well as providing a certain amount of buffering from the environment.

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First batch of 25 to be measured – these manuscripts are in good condition and require only light cleaning. Once they are boxed they will not need further conservation attention for a good long time, we hope. This will mean we can cross two dozen off our list of 155 quickly. The next tranches of mss will be measured in batches as well, in order according to how much repair they need, starting with those needing least binding repair, and avoiding those needing major text block repairs until the end. This isn’t just about getting through the list quickly: any change to the binding – and even some major interventions to the text block – may alter the outer shape of the book and therefore the box. Those will need treatment before they can be accurately measured for a box. Some may need a folder or wrapper in the interim.

The first lot of custom-made boxes has arrived from the Bodleian’s boxing and packaging department:DSCN9857

a surprisingly small package…

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contains a certain number of boxes…

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which are bigger on the inside than the outside! clever packing 🙂

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contents, ready for boxing

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one type of box – drop-spine, mostly used for larger, thicker or hardback volumes; several have string-and-washer closures on the fore edge for extra security and a little pressure to help keep the boards in shape

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the other type, a robust four-flap folder, for thinner, smaller and soft-back volumes

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all done – another two dozen manuscripts safer on the shelf and during production!