A selection of images from the Michaelmas exhibition of medieval manuscripts at St Cross is now on public view in the antechapel in Broad Street:
Guest post by Sian Witherden
Balliol College Library has one copy of the Rudimentum Novitiorum (‘Handbook for Novices’), an encyclopaedia of world history whose author remains anonymous. This book was printed on paper in Lübeck by Lucas Brandis on the 5th of August 1475. The volume is quite large at 380 x 290 mm, and it is still in the original stamped leather binding. Other copies from the same print run are held in libraries across the globe, including Berlin, Copenhagen, Moscow, Paris, Prague, Princeton, Vienna, and Zürich. Each of these copies has its own unique history, but what is perhaps most remarkable about the Balliol copy is the way it has been dismembered by a later reader (or perhaps readers). Many of the woodcut prints in this volume have been cut out, though there seems to be no obvious reason why certain images were selected for excision and not others. Perhaps the reader wanted to keep these particular ones for a scrapbook or put them to use in another volume. Unfortunately, leaves are also missing from both the front and back of the book.
Another reader was evidently so dismayed by the extent of the losses that he felt impelled to make a comment in the margins: “Is it not a great shame to the scholars of Balliol College to suffer such a choice book as this is to be thus defaced?” There is of course a distinct irony to this, as the annotator takes issue with the defacement of the volume while simultaneously adding his own blemishes to the same book.
In the sixteenth century, the book was evidently owned by John Wicham, whose name appears twice on the outer cover along with the year 1584. Curiously, the book is incorrectly identified as the Opus Historicum of Guillerinus de Conchis both on the spine and within a flyleaf note written in “a late sixteenth or seventeenth century hand,” according to Dennis E. Rhodes. The Rudimentum Novitiorum has no connection with Guillerinus de Conchis.
* * *
For further reading on this book, see Dennis E. Rhodes, A Catalogue of Incunabula in all the Libraries of Oxford University outside the Bodleian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 296–7.
 Abbreviations have been silently expanded and orthography has been modernized.
– Sian Witherden, September 2017. Follow Sian’s tweets @sian_witherden
A combination of branches mostly still bare, spring sunshine, and recent cleaning of a lot of stonework is showing up lots of details of stone carving around Balliol’s main site at Broad Street. All of the features below are visible from publicly accessible areas outdoors in the front and garden quads. How many can you find?
There are four WW1 memorials in St Cross Church, Holywell – two also record information about the fallen in WW2.
St Cross parish War Memorial
WWI fallen: AS Adams, FF Hunt, EV Giles, CB Wren, TW Haydon, EH Freeman, HE Miller
St Peter’s-in-the-East parish War Memorial.
This was in the parish church of St Peter’s–in-the-East, which is now the Library of St Edmund Hall. It was brought to St Cross and placed on the north tower pier facing the St Cross War Memorial when St Peter’s was closed as a parish church. It is now permanently fixed in the south aisle next to the St Catherine’s Society memorial.
WWI fallen: R Andrews, J Balaam, C Butler, GRW Dickinson, H Griffith, RB Macan, E Rix, A Roe, AF Salmon, THS Townsend, MB Wilks, J Williams
WWII fallen: HC Nicholl-Smith
St Catherine’s Society War Memorial
For information about the Society, see the History of St Catherine’s College.
WWI fallen: RA Abrams,T Baker, EK Bonsey , EW Brooks, AC Burrows, T Cann, BM Carpenter, HF Clarke, HTS Cole, HC Crichton, F Dann, R Dell, WR Dibb, GRW Dickinson, HJ Dunn, Rev.VS Dunstan, KM Dyott, H Garth, Rev HJB Green, NGB King, C Lakin, C Lewis, DG Lloyd-Williams , DJ Macdonald, Rev GH Merrikin, WC Milne, JA Moore , JHC Morris, AC Neale, PLS Phipps, HT Pitcairn, GH Pollard, CB Shrewsbury, S Spencer, TG Thomas, TJB Trowman, CS Unwin, OT Walton, THH Ward, FL Warland, FWWhitlock, EE Wicks, SA Wilkes, HMWillimas, TPC Wilson THH Wood, AJ Wooldridge
WWII fallen: HF Banister, WAO Chandler, S Coshall, CGP Cuthbert, KG Hope, EWG Hudgel, PO Johnson, EA Legrand, EW McKeeman, AS Mitchell, GS Morris, HC Pugh , LF Sheppard, RWO Spender, JR Stephen, MD Thomas, BG Tillyard, CW Turner, ACA White, WD Paul.
Transcriptions and other information are repeated here, along with lists of the other known burials in the church. For more information about the war memorials and other commemorative inscriptions in St Cross Church, see JH Jones’ history of the building and parish. All surviving parish records, including burial records, are at the Oxfordshire History Centre. Balliol does not keep copies in the church.
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):
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
College archives: Foundation Statutes (1282)
Charter of Incorporation, 1588
medieval seal matrices and a John de Balliol penny
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
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
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!