- Number of enquiries: 25 (up to 16 December when the archives closed for the holidays; 10 days open)
- Final total for 2016: 875
- Number of researchers in person (unique users): 5
- Number of person-days in the reading room: 8
- Collections consulted: Woods, Malcolm,TH Green, early modern MSS, college records
- No of non-research visitors:9
- Interesting events & activities: visit from Balliol Fellow and English students for an introduction to medieval manuscripts workshop; Anna visited the archives at Campion Hall re GM Hopkins, and attended the COLOUR conference and exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge.
Light exposure (lux, UV, heat) is always a concern during exhibitions. How much light does St Cross get, and how can ancient manuscripts be protected while also being made accessible to visitors?
First, limiting exposure. Exhibitions of original material run for 3 months maximum. Pages exposed are changed regularly where that’s practical for the topic of the exhibition. Depending on their condition, books are closed whenever open hours are not planned for a few days in a row. Thanks to the condition survey and research following from it, I’m developing a ‘rota’ of manuscripts that can be produced as examples of various features, rather than getting out the old favourites every time.
The interior of St Cross, including the book cases used for exhibitions, does receive a surprising amount of natural as well as artificial light. The clerestory windows on the south side, although they are small and high, allow a lot of light for much of the day on the shelves on the north side of the nave. The above photo is taken with no artificial lighting on at all, around midday in early September. It is clear to see how much more direct sun shines on the upper than the lower shelves.
Thanks to the deep shelving and even deeper pelmets on top of the cases, the back of any shelf receives much less direct sunlight than the front. But manuscripts on display need to be as visible as possible – at the front of the case.
Also at the front of the case are these very bright and undimmable LED lights down both sides – they provide all the ambient light to the working area of the reading room as well as illuminating the objects on the shelves. It would be complicated and expensive to install temporary, movable conservation-standard low-level lighting in all these cases. The LEDs emit practically no heat or UV at all, and their intensity decreases dramatically a few inches away. But they are still pretty bright.
There is a simple and effective, if not ideal, solution: open manuscripts (or indeed closed books, as bindings suffer from sunning as well) are covered with a (new) acid free folder, or similar conservation-quality light card cut to fit, outside of exhibition open hours. This blocks pretty much all the light from sunshine and artificial lighting.
The free-standing exhibition cases are fitted with heavy card covers, which are also in place outside exhibition open hours. These are easier to put on and remove than their usual full-length wooden covers.
Change and Decay: a history of damage and conservation in Balliol’s medieval manuscripts
Balliol College Historic Collections Centre
St Cross Church, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UH
A new exhibition of medieval manuscripts will be in place for Oxford Open Doors (9-10 September 2017) and throughout Michaelmas Term (until 10 December).
Opening hours: Saturday 9 September and Sunday 10 September 12-4 pm both days for Oxford Open Doors, Saturday 16 September 2.30-6.30 pm for Balliol Society and Oxford Alumni Weekend, and tba. Individuals and groups are also welcome to visit at other times by appointment with the archivist – contact
Visiting hours are normally Mon-Fri 10-1 and 2-5; appointments aren’t meant to be exclusive, it’s just that the exhibition and reading room are in the same space and we need to plan ahead to ensure that visitors and researchers are here at different times.
Further information and related events will be advertised here.
The exhibition, curated by Balliol’s Archivist and Curator of Manuscripts, Anna Sander, includes more than 20 of Balliol’s 300+ original medieval manuscript codices and a number of contemporary documents from the college records, and highlights a decade of work on the archives and manuscripts by the team of professional conservators at the Oxford Conservation Consortium, of which Balliol has been a member since 2006.
2017 medieval mss catalogue print format [PDF, 9MB]
List of manuscripts on display
– with links to exhibition catalogue entries, more images and articles on related topics. Catalogue entries may not be identical in the blog posts and the print-ready PDF – the latter has been formatted to fit each manuscript’s entry on 2 sides of A4, i.e. a single opening, but there is no such restriction on blog post length.
Case 2. College Archives Membership 1.1. First Latin Register of College Meeting Minutes 1514-1682, in Latin and English, on paper. Earliest surviving records of Balliol College’s Governing Body. [exhibition entry] [images online]
Case 3a. MS 349 15th century. Collection of nine texts related to the office of priesthood, in Latin, on parchment. Bequeathed to Balliol by Dr George Coningesby in 1768. Closed to show the only medieval binding in Balliol’s manuscript collection. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]
Case 3b. MS 350 12th, 13th & 14th centuries, 3 medieval treatises on English law, including Herefordshire section of Domesday. Victorian vellum binding, in Latin and Anglo-Norman French, on parchment. Bequeathed to Balliol by Dr George Coningesby. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 4. MS 263 14th-15th century. Texts on poetic and rhetorical composition, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]
Case 5. MS 238E ca.1445. 5th volume of medieval encyclopedia, Fons Memorabilium Universi, compiled by Dominicus Bandini de Arecio, in Latin, on parchment. Conserved and rebound ?early 2000s. Copy commissioned and given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d.1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 6. MS 148 2nd half 13th century. ‘Bernardi opuscula’, collection of short texts by 12th century Cistercian theologian and reformer Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 7. MS 253 13th century. ‘Logica vetus’ and other texts by Aristotle, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Provenance unknown; late medieval Balliol ownership inscription. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 8. MS 12., aka Arch C 1 6. Ca. 1475. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae (History of the Jewish People), in Latin, on parchment. Printed at Lübeck by Lukas Brandis, ca. 1475. Rebacked/rebound several times, conserved 2010-11. Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [ISTC entry] [not yet digitized]
Case 9a. MS 367 11th century. Antidotarium – medical recipes and remedies, in Latin, on parchment. Victorian binding. Probably given to the College by Sir John Conroy, 1st Bt, Fellow of Balliol 1890. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 9b. MS 348 13th century. Vulgate Bible, in Latin, on very thin parchment. ‘Pocket Bible.’ Rebound 1720s.In Balliol by the 17th century; provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]
Case 9c. MS 451. 1480s. Book of Hours (Use of Rome), perhaps from Ghent or Bruges, in Latin on parchment. Early 19th century binding by by C. Kalthoeber of London. Given to Balliol by the Rev. EF Synge. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet fully digitized]
Case 9d. MS 378 Undated. Prayers to the Virgin Mary, in Ethiopic, on parchment. Original wooden boards without cover. From the personal library of the Rev. Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol 1870-1893, other provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 10. MS 396 Early 14th century. Five leaves of a noted Sarum Breviary, one of the liturgical books used for the Daily Office, in Latin, on parchment. These leaves were found and removed from the binding of an ‘old dilapidated’ College account book in 1898, by George Parker of the Bodleian Library. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 11. College Archives E.1. 1320s-1350s. Title deeds relating to property at Long Benton (Much/Mickle Benton) near Newcastle, given to Balliol College by Sir Philip Somerville, in Latin, on parchment, with seals. [exhibition entry] [images online]
Case 12. MS 116 Later 13th century. Commentary by Eustratius, an early 12th century bishop of Niceaea, on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. At Balliol by the late 14th century; provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 13. MS 277 Late 13th century. Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Meteorology, trans. Moerbeke, and Ethics, trans. Grosseteste, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. May have been at Balliol in the 14th century, alienated and returned in the 15th; given by Mr Robert Rok (Rook). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 14. MS 384 15th century. English Book of Hours according to the Use of Sarum, in Latin, on parchment. 18th century binding. At Balliol since the 18th century; provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [some images online]
Case 15. MS 210 1st half 13th century. Several texts by C12-13 University theologians, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Given to the College by Roger Whelpdale, sometime Fellow of Balliol and Bishop of Carlisle in 1419-20 (d. 1423). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 16. MS 173A 12th and 13th century. Two collections of short texts bound together, on medieval music theory, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 17. College Archives B.22.1. Ca. 1200, charter re St Lawrence Jewry, London. (Jewry?) Parchment, 2 pendent seals. Balliol’s oldest document, predates Balliol’s association with the property. Rehoused by OCC, 2007. [exhibition entry] [images online]
Case 18. MS 354 Early 16th century. Commonplace book of London grocer Richard Hill, in English, Latin and French, on paper. Medieval song or carol texts, literary extracts, poems, religious and spiritual texts, notes on farming and trade, recipes, proverbs, etc. Original limp parchment cover. Provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Case 19. MS 240 12th and 14th centuries. Miscellany of religious texts, in Latin, on parchment. Conserved and rebound by Andrew Honey, 1990s. From the priory of Monks Kirby (Warwickshire). Given to the College by Richard Bole, Archdeacon of Ely (d.1477). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]
Find out more
- Flickr collection for the exhibition – not all the mss have been photographed in full yet, so this collection will grow.
- Notes on light by Anna Sander
- Tiny books, tiny writing by Sian Witherden and Anna Sander
- Manuscript fragments in early printed books project
- Fragment Fridays by Annaliese Griffiss
- A description of Balliol Arch.C.1.9 by Sian Witherden
- Further reading – online and print resources
A few numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during December:
Your questions from the weekend, answered:
Q: Where are the medieval manuscripts?
A: (We get this question every time St Cross is open, no matter what else is on display.) Balliol’s medieval manuscripts, like all the other archive and manuscript material, is kept inside the repositories in the aisles. But the question is really, are they on display right now and can I see them, and the answer is, yes, but only one at the moment. This term’s exhibition features Hebraica and Judaica from across the college’s collections, including a spectacular 15th codex in Hebrew, produced in Portugal.
There seems to be some feeling that the college really should be displaying more of its medieval manuscripts more of the time, that it has some obligation to do so. Well, I agree, but the college’s first obligation is to preserve the manuscripts, i.e. not to expose them to any further damage than they have already incurred through accident, misuse, fire, flood, pests etc through their sometimes 10 centuries of existence. And it’s not possible for St Cross to be open to the public all the time. One way we make LOTS of our manuscripts more accessible is through creating and sharing good digital images online, publicly, for free. That’s not the same as seeing the manuscripts in person, but remember they are *extremely* old and fragile, and the best conservators in the world (and we have them!) can’t change that.
That said, September 2017’s exhibition in St Cross is going to be ALL ABOUT MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS, so be sure to come to that.
Q: Does Balliol have resources about its members who served/fell in WW1?
Q: What’s the relationship between the Bodleian libraries and the colleges’ libraries and special collections?
A: The Bodleian is the collective shorthand for the University of Oxford’s libraries: the central library, departmental/faculty libraries, and a number of specialist libraries. Like any university library, they exist to serve current members of the university first, and also other researchers. College libraries don’t have an equivalent at most other universities; they exist primarily to serve current members of that college only. However, college libraries’ holdings of modern and in many cases rare/early/special collections printed books are on the University’s union catalogue, SOLO, and may be consulted (normally by appointment) by non-members of that college.
Archives and manuscripts are DIFFERENT from (especially modern) printed book collections in many ways. They are held, owned and looked after by various University libraries and by college libraries, separately. SOLO does not include archival or manuscript material from any university or college collections and there is no union catalogue of university or college archives or manuscripts. Colleges may have: their own historic administrative documents (‘the college archives’), personal papers of individual former heads of house, Fellows and sometimes students (‘modern personal papers’, ‘personal archives’ etc) and medieval manuscript books, which may be books from the college’s own medieval library, later acquisitions, or both. College archives and manuscripts may be looked after by the archivist or the librarian in different combinations – it varies from college to college. Some colleges have deposited their medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian for safekeeping and ease of access by researchers.
Archives and manuscripts in any library or archive are non-borrowable – you have to go to them (this is also true of early and rare printed books and other special collections). Researchers normally have to register with the institution and will be invigilated while using the material. Reading room regulations are generally stricter than those of ordinary university library reading rooms.
This all sounds very restrictive, and it is, because the material is mostly original, unique and irreplaceable. In many instances it is also very old and fragile, and requires training in how to handle it safely – never mind how to read or understand it! HOWEVER, there is a flip side to all this restrictiveness: archives and manuscripts in college collections are open to researchers from across the university and indeed to the general public – which is not generally true of their modern printed books. This is of course because – again, generally speaking – there are no copies of unique original material elsewhere. Researchers will need to apply in advance and make an appointment to see such material, and will need to present a bona fide research question to gain access, though an academic or other institutional affiliation is not essential.
There is no one place to find all this material, or to find descriptions of it. Archival arrangement and description is very different from regular printed book cataloguing – it has some aspects in common with early/rare printed books cataloguing – and is very time-consuming. It is not straightforward for researchers to find out what’s where – it will require some work, and also asking archivists and librarians for help. Small amounts of some collections have been digitized – this may or may not be useful, but in general there is MUCH more information available off the internet than on it. Some finding aids for colleges’ archives and manuscripts (or just start with a general search engine):
- College archives
- The National Archives’ Discovery catalogue
- The National Archives’ Find an Archive index
- The Archives Hub
- Bodleian – manuscripts
- About college libraries, from the Bodleian’s website.
Q: Does Balliol hold many scientists’ archives?
A: No – scientists’ archives are often part of an ongoing research continuum, so they are not always deposited in a body in the same way as, say, a politician’s or poet’s personal papers. Scientists’ papers which are deposited as archival fonds often go to specialist repositories, such as Oxford’s Natural History Museum, the Edward Grey Institute for Field Ornithology, or the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge.
Q: I suppose Open Doors is the only time in the year that St Cross church is open to the public?
A: No. It is also open for a similar weekend in the spring, and for advertised exhibition opening hours and other events throughout the year. Anyone can make an appointment to visit the building. The church can also be used for occasional services, at the discretion of and arranged through the clergy of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, in the High Street. More details about public opening and how the building is used.
Q: Was Dame Stephanie Shirley involved in funding the St Cross building project?
A: Yes. More details
Q: How old is St Cross church?
A: That depends. The chancel arch is Norman (about 1100); there is no archaeological evidence among the foundations for any earlier building. Most of the building you see now is Victorian (C19). Here’s a fuller answer.
Q: What’s the relationship of the churchyard next to the church, and the cemetery behind it, to St Cross church?
Q: Where is the sundial?
A: On the outside of the church, on the south side of the tower. You can see it from the street as you approach from the south (i.e. from town); it’s blue. To the left of the south door of the church (on the side, in the churchyard) is a brass plaque about the sundial. Step back as far as possible from the plaque and look straight up to see the sundial.
Q: Is this the university cemetery?
A: No. There is no ‘university cemetery’ in Oxford. Most of the city’s churchyards and cemeteries have lots of headstones commemorating former members of the University.
‘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.
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.’ 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’[] 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” 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.
For more information about Balliol’s special collections, exhibitions, open days, public talks and other events, please follow us:
 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]
 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
 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:
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.
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.