– 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.


Historic Collections @Balliol


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For more about the treasures of Balliol’s library and archives please visit our new blog at Historic Collections @Balliol.

For all Library and Archives enquiries please contact the library 


finding primary sources – worked example

Q: I’m looking for archival material in Oxford – and maybe elsewhere – relating to [well known deceased literary figure(s)].

A: LMGTFY – almost.

The first answer is always, of course, do an internet search – try ‘oxford surname’ and see what comes up. If nothing obvious, try adding ‘archives’, ‘papers’ or ‘letters’.

Balliol College’s personal and family archives holdings are listed online, with links to images, at http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Modern%20Papers/modernmsssum.asp.

Biographies and other secondary material should mention the whereabouts of other primary sources; from the archives end though, you will want to be familiar with several national portals, as e.g. letters from your research subjects will turn up in the archives of correspondents’ archives, not their own.

  • The National Archives Discovery catalogue now includes the former National Register of Archives and A2A entries, for UK archives outside TNA: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ (use Advanced, then Record Creator tab)
  • The Archives Hub, for archives/personal papers/collections in (mostly) UK HE institutions: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/
  • The Location Register of Modern English Literary Manuscripts & Letters at Reading University: http://www.locationregister.com/
  • AIM25, for archives/personal papers/collections in (mostly) Greater London repositories: https://aim25.com/
  • JANUS, for archives/personal papers/collections in Cambridge college and university repositories: https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/
  • If your research subject has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, there will be sections for Sources (i.e. secondary works) and Archives – these are often a handy shortcut to get started with, though don’t assume they are infallibly complete. The ODNB is accessed by subscription, but many HE institutions and UK public libraries provide access.
When you have done all these things, check with the Oxford archivists via the OAC address: https://oac.web.ox.ac.uk/ – be sure to mention the sources you have already checked and the archives you have located, otherwise we will helpfully suggest them to you again!

Does all this sound obvious? good – but this is a genuine enquiry from a genuine researcher of the internet generation, and it’s far from unique.

Hilary Term on facebook

I post brief monthly statistics here, but for readers who just can’t get enough archives news, there’s a weekly update on Facebook as well. Here’s the roundup for Hilary Term, January-February:

HT1: Happy New Year! This week in the archives, catching up on holiday enquiries, rounding up December enquiries and statistics, generally hanging the shingle out again as all services resume as normal.

HT2: this week in the archives, it’s a ‘quiet’ week as far as researcher bookings go. So in between thumb-twiddling sessions, I’ll just be finishing up holiday enquiries and reprographics requests; December, January & 2017 statistics on the blog; starting the term’s campaign of cataloguing modern personal papers collections & posting their fonds-level descriptions to the (new and improved) Archives Hub; assembling Docs in Focus features for the Library and facsimile displays for the antechapel; and starting to clear the office in case of work on pipes and electrics later…

HT3: this week in the archives, tutors planning classes using early printed books and late medieval manuscripts, a planning session for one of those classes, and flooring repairs in the repositories.

HT4: this week in the archives, just one reader booked, so, more accessioning and cataloguing. Forward in February!

HT5 : this week in the archives, a new accession to the RM Hare papers; a Balliol graduate student teaching a class based on manuscripts and early printed books; researchers looking at the Hunt, Rawnsley, McKail and Nicolson papers, college records and medieval manuscripts; and a conservation consortium management committee meeting for me. No wonder I’m only getting round to updating on Tuesday!

HT 6: this week in the archives, researchers for the Jowett, Rawnsley and Caird papers and college records; a school visit; servicing of the fire suppression system; planning a spring exhibition with several graduate student curators; and the termly Library Committee meeting.

HT 7: this week in the archives, I handed in my resignation in early February and will be leaving Balliol at the end of April, after more than 13 years, and returning to my home country of Canada after nearly 20 years away. Stay tuned for updates about modifications to archive services during the transition period. But for now, there are enquiries to answer!

HT 8: this week in the archives, researchers for the Jowett archive, Chalet papers and college records. March is the last month I’m taking new enquiries and requests for reprographics, as I wind things up in preparation for leaving at the end of April, so send them in soon!

HT9: this week in the archives, a researcher looking at college records and my last AGM at the Oxford Conservation Consortium. It’s a short week for me, as I’ll be in Cambridge on Friday at a symposium celebrating wider access to Parker on the Web, an extraordinary resource for all students of medieval manuscripts. No more paywall! https://theparkerlibrary.wordpress.com/…/parker-news-acces…/  March is the last month I’m taking new enquiries and requests for reprographics, as I wind things up in preparation for leaving at the end of April, so send them in soon.

The University is now in Vacation, but archives are busy: this week researchers are consulting records of the Chalet des Anglais, material relating to Hilaire Belloc, and the Rawnsley papers. My roundup of tweets from Friday’s brilliant Parker Library on the Web symposium in Cambridge is online (until May, when Storify dies) at http://bit.ly/2HLaYDH March is the last month I’m taking new enquiries and requests for reprographics, as I wind things up in preparation for leaving at the end of April, so send them in soon.

Easter Vacation (University sense): this week in the archives, researchers for the Rawnsley, Jowett and Belloc papers and some other individual items. From next week, please send all enquiries, requests for reprographics and requests for appointments to carry out research on the archives and manuscripts at St Cross to library@balliol.ox.ac.uk. The librarians are providing interim cover; future staffing arrangements for St Cross will be noted on the college website in due course. I will not be dealing with any new instances of these after this week, as I need the last few weeks of my notice period to leave everything as free of loose ends as is ever possible in an archive.

monthly report – January 2018

Some numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during January:

  • Number of enquiries: 56
  • Total for 2017: 56
  • Number of researchers in person (unique users): 6
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 8
  • Collections consulted: Medieval mss (3), College records (2), Rawnsley papers
  • images created: 1200
  • Productions (consulted by researchers in person or by the archivist in response to enquiries) – actual numbers may be slightly higher:
    • 11 files – up to 200 items per file, not including
    • 12  individual items from a single letter to a bound volume, not including
    • 27 medieval ms codices

Some of the topics of remote enquiries received in January:

  • college portraits and other works of art
  • college heraldry
  • correct citation/referencing for archival materials
  • requests for permission to quote from or publish images of archival material
  • requests for (new) digital images of college records and medieval manuscripts
  • 17th century vocabulary for silver plate
  • WW1 minutes of College Meeting
  • WW1 and post-WW2 diaries
  • Boat Club history
  • Biographical research re / info on Balliol or related archives of
    • people who were not members of Balliol
    • C18 – early C20 College servants
    • RW Raper (Balliol TT 1861)
    • Sir J Conroy (Balliol 1890)
    • H Belloc (Balliol HT 1893)
    • HS Malik (Balliol 1912)
    • RH Glover (Balliol 1915)
    • I Stitt (Balliol 1917)
    • TH Tylor, Fellow (Balliol 1918)
    • F Huxley (Balliol 1946)
    • FJ Lindars (Balliol 1949)

monthly report – December 2017

Some numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during December:

  • Number of enquiries: 33
  • Total for 2017: 726
  • Number of researchers in person (unique users): 5
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 5 (out of 8 days open)
  • Collections consulted: Jowett archive, college records, medieval mss, Conroy archive, Malcolm papers
  • Productions (consulted by researchers in person or by the archivist in response to enquiries) – actual numbers may be slightly higher:
    • 13 boxes containing from two bound volumes to 4 thick files of individual items, not including
    • 1 file – up to 200 items per file, not including
    • 9  individual items from a single letter to a bound volume, not including
    • 1 medieval ms codex
  • No of non-research visitors: 25
  • exhibition open, with curator’s introduction, Q&A and discussion, for:
    • current Balliol Fellows, guests and staff
    • archivists & librarians from other Colleges
    • members of the Oxford Conservators’ Group
    • private visitors, including Old Members of Balliol

Some of the enquiry topics received in December:

  • college portraits and other works of art
  • requests for permission to quote from or publish images of archival material
  • requests for (new) digital images of college records and medieval manuscripts
  • Biographical research re / info on Balliol or related archives of
    • people who were not members of Balliol
    • C18 – early C20 College servants
    • G Abbott (Balliol 1581)
    • H Savage (Balliol 1624/5)
    • CSC Bowen (Balliol 1853), later Baron Bowen
    • HCK Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (Balliol 1863)
    • GO Roos (Balliol 1887)
    • AW Pickard-Cambridge (Balliol 1891)

Michaelmas Term on facebook

I post brief monthly statistics here, but for readers who just can’t get enough archives news, there’s a weekly update on Facebook as well. Here’s the roundup for Michaelmas Term, starting in late September:

MT -1: the University is counting down and gearing up for Michaelmas Term. This week in the archives, a reader for the medieval manuscripts and visitors to the exhibition. Blog posts for the exhibition catalogue continue #mss2017. It’s the last week of September, so time for the monthly enquiries roundup and statistics post as well.

MT0 – This week in the archives, everybody else is busy getting ready for the new term, and I’m finally having a holiday 😀

MT1: Happy New Year for all those opening a fresh new academic calendar! This week in the archives: researchers for medieval manuscripts and some non-Browning material in the Browning papers, the librarians host Brookes University publishing students, and I kick off the year of Bruce’s Brunch, a series of lunchtime talks on all manner of subjects for Balliol students, hosted by the Chaplain. And the small matter of catching up after a week away.

MT2. This week in the archives, researchers for the Monckton and Jowett archives and medieval manuscripts. I’m continuing to post extended versions of the manuscripts exhibition catalogue entries on the blog: https://balliolarchivist.wordpress.com/category/mss2017/

MT3 – this week in the archives, researchers for medieval manuscripts, Caird papers and TH Green papers. The momentary ‘lull’ means I can catch up a bit on productions and reprographics, and complete physical arrangement of two (relatively) small subfonds. It’s also the time of year for college-wide refresher training in the use of ladders and fire extinguishers.

The medieval manuscripts exhibition continues: ‘Change and Decay: A History of Damage and Conservation in Balliol’s Medieval Manuscripts’, 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.

Individual and group visitors are very welcome most times, by appointment. 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. Please come! More about the manuscripts exhibition at https://balliolarchivist.wordpress.com/ #mss2017

For tutors planning a visit with students, there is also space, and time available, to hold a class (of up to about a dozen) in the middle of the nave, i.e. surrounded by the manuscripts on display.

Directions: http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Services/visit.asp#f
Contact: anna.sander@balliol.ox.ac.uk

MT 4: This week in the archives, researchers for the Morier, AL Smith, Strachan Davidson,Ernest Walker and AC Badley papers. Balliol MCR visits the medieval manuscripts exhibition and we launch a Special Collections Challenge series with them; the librarians host the English Faculty 18th Century Seminar at St Cross; I visit the ‘C19 medieval revival’ session of the Rare German Books seminar; we join other college librarians and archivists at the university’s Graduate Thesis Fair.

MT5: This week in the archives, lots of tutors and students coming to look at (and talk about) the medieval manuscripts exhibition! First one today, topics covered: tiny writing, huge printing, marginalia, pigment ingredients, seal attachment, authentication methods for charters, manuscript reuse as binding waste, manuscript navigation, vandalism, conservation materials, gothic binding structures. Not necessarily in that order! No researchers booked this week as at least half of every day has a visiting class. October’s report is on the blog: https://balliolarchivist.wordpress.com/…/monthly-report-oc…/

MT 6 – this week in the archives, researchers for the AL Smith and Jowett papers, and medieval manuscripts; a Balliol alumna brings classes from two other colleges to look at early printed books; a Balliol Fellow and a Professor of Medieval German Lit & Ling hold workshops based around the medieval manuscripts exhibition. There is a new Remembrance Sunday display in the antechapel and I’m preparing a termly report covering more than half the year!

MT7 This week in the archives, researchers for medieval manuscripts, Urquhart papers and Oppenheimer papers; discussions about digitization and cataloguing software; conservators visit the exhibition of medieval manuscripts; termly reports; and a maintenance check for the rolling shelving.

MT8: This week in the archives, the medival manuscripts exhibition remains open by prior arrangement to visitors through next week. There are researchers booked in to look at early modern manuscripts, the Strachan-Davidson papers and medieval manuscripts; individual and group visitors coming to the exhibition; the termly College Library Committee meeting; and the Oxford Conservation Consortium’s AGM. And, somehow, December.

MT9 – this week in the archives: exhibition visitors; researchers for the Malcolm papers, college records, Conroy archive, Jowett archive, and medieval manuscripts; November statistics and termly (May-November) report appearing on the blog.

This is the last week to see the medieval manuscripts exhibition at St Cross and also the last week of 2017 for research appointments. The former will be put away, and the latter will resume in the week of 15 January. It will be possible to request appointments for the new year during the closed period – plan ahead and get your place booked early.


antechapel display – Remembrance Sunday 2017

A century ago: extracts from a few pages of Francis Fortescue (‘Sligger’) Urquhart’s personal photo albums, covering the Summer Term of 1917.

There were still Balliol men coming into residence each year during the War: surprising as it may seem now some were overseas students; others were precluded from active service, e.g. Aldous Huxley; most were putting in time before their commissions came through, and the student numbers by the end of each summer term were much lower than in Michaelmas. In addition, the officer cadets billeted at Balliol, Keble and elsewhere for training were welcomed and made to feel part of ‘their’ colleges by the few Fellows still resident.

Urquhart was one of only three dons in residence at Balliol throughout the War, and his unbroken series of informal photographs shows the incongruous juxtapositions of academic, civilian and military life during the period. This post shows a selection reflecting the outward and visible changes made by the war in Oxford, mainly within Balliol.

Many of the officer cadets who spent weeks or months training in Oxford had good memories of their time there. This lighter side of wartime experience easily became family stories that could be passed down. My enquiry records show that some officer training periods have evolved in family legend into full Oxford degrees, several generations of retelling later! The ‘party of sight-seers’ in one photo is visiting New College’s cloisters – is Urquhart acting as their tour guide? Even the pictures of ‘trench digging on Cumnor Hill by 6 OCB A Company’, in their shirtsleeves under a bright Oxfordshire sun and the beady eye of Captain Lang, look worlds removed from the reality, fast approaching for these men, of the mud of Flanders and France.

Individually, the photos are mostly sunny snapshots of happy moments; as a collection, however, the very quality of ‘Oxford idyll’ that seems escapist and almost irresponsible in such a serious time forms not only a fascinating glimpse into an important chapter in Oxford’s history, but a vivid and very personal memorial to lost youth and potential, compiled by a tutor noting the deaths of too many friends and former students.


3 views of John Beverley Nichols. JBN was admitted to Balliol, with Urquhart as his tutor, in Hilary Term (spring term, i.e. January) 1917, and almost immediately entered the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Labour Corps. These photos, only a page apart in the album, show his rapid transition from civilian to military life. Nichols detested everything about the war and his military experience, and was deeply bitter about his father’s curtailment of his Oxford education once the war was over. Nichols does not mention his brief 1917 Oxford period in his memoir The Unforgiving Minute, which indicates that he went straight from Marlborough College to officer training in Cambridge. Balliol Archives FFU 7.50H, 7.52F, 7.52G.


‘A party of sight-seers, March 1917’ – a group of officer cadets and their training officers in the cloisters at New College. Balliol Archives FFU 7.50I


‘Malik, French Red Cross, Summer term 1917.’ Hardit Singh Malik was one of four Sikh pilots in the RFC/RAF), and the only one of the four to survive. Francis Urquhart had been his Balliol tutor, and it was through him that Malik joined the French Red Cross in 1916 – as a stepping stone to the French Air Force, as at that time the new Royal Flying Corps did not accept non-white officers. In 1917 that colour bar was broken, again through Urquhart’s intervention, and Hardit Singh Malik became a pilot in the RFC, later the RAF. This photo may date from a visit a little earlier in the year, just before Malik’s transfer. Balliol Archives FFU 7.52A


Academic and military lives collide: Victor Mallet (Balliol 1911) studied Modern History at Balliol under NS Talbot and AL Smith, signed up with the Cambridge Regiment in September 1914 and served in France 1915-16. He is shown here on leave (or perhaps on business?) from Ireland in 1917 receiving his degree in BA gown and hood, with Army uniform, complete with cane, instead of subfusc and mortarboard. The Mallet family’s archive is held in Balliol’s Historic Collections Centre. Balliol Archives FFU 7.52C


At one point during the term Sligger visits the Cambridge home of Baron Anatole von Hügel (1854-1928) . Von Hügel, a fellow alumnus of Stonyhurst College, had set Urquhart something of an example when, in 1895, he had been a leading figure in the repeal of the Papal prohibition on Roman Catholic membership of Oxford and Cambridge. Balliol Archives FFU7.54B & C


Nevile Barclay plays the organ in Balliol Hall. Barclay enlisted with the 8th London Regiment in May `915, aged 17, and worked in the Foreign Office until November 1918. He enrolled at Balliol in 1916 but his course was much interrupted by war work; he eventually completed his degree in 1921, but did not formally take the BA and MA until 1926. He and JB Nichols became friends during Nichols’ postwar stint in Oxford. Balliol Archives  FFU7.54D

The regular Sunday Concert series established  by Benjamin Jowett in 1885 continued well into the War, until June 1915, but was then replaced with less formal concerts for which there were no programmes. This coincides with the occupation of Balliol’s premises by No. 6 Officer Cadet Battalion; hundreds if not thousands of Army officer cadets came through Balliol on training courses lasting up to three months.


‘W Robinson in hospital.’ There is no W Robinson of the right vintage at Balliol. Who is W Robinson? a member of another college? someone from the Roman Catholic schools? a former officer cadet stationed at Balliol for training? His dressing gown and slippers on the lawn are reminiscent of similar, yet very different, photos taken at Urquhart’s Chalet in the French alps only a few years earlier. And who took this photo? Urquhart usually notes photographers of individual prints other than himself  -though he does not mention whether they used his camera or their own – but from the shadow, whoever took this photo was in uniform. And which hospital is it? from the indications of a downhill slope in the background, I’ll guess it’s in Headington. Balliol Archives FFU 7.54I


‘Trench digging on Cumnor Hill by 6 OCB, “A” Coy. Cap. Lang, Seiler, Velho, Sharp, Shaw, Evans, Darling.’ Urquhart has probably walked out to Cumnor, a regular walking destination of his, to visit the ‘Balliol’ cadets of 6 OCB practising – in what looks like very dry earth indeed – for the mud of France and Flanders. This is one of very few photographs indeed of officer cadets with identifications. Notice Velho’s khaki apron, carefully belted at the right length to protect his kilt. Balliol Archives FFU 7.55B


‘A Company Lecture’: instead of the usual scene of Balliol students taking a break from the Library or celebrating the end of their Finals, here an Army instructor addresses several dozen officer cadets sitting on the grass in front of the ivy-covered Hall in the Garden Quad. This photo appears to have been taken from the top of the Library tower. Balliol Archives FFU 7.55C


Maurice Leonard Jacks (Balliol 1912) had been a student of Cyril Bailey, in Classics, immediately before the war, and one of the early Presidents of the Balliol Boys’ Club. After serving as a 2nd Lieutenant (the most common rank for young University men signing up as junior officers) in the King’s Royal Rifles 1914-16, he was wounded in France in November 1916. As a result, he did not return to battle but became Captain of C Company, No.4 officer Cadet Battalion, based at Keble College in Oxford.  This meant he was just up the road from his old friend Urquhart, as well as close to the Jacks’ new family home at Shotover Edge. Jacks and Urquhart collaborated to provide cadets on their days off with walks and explorations by canoe of the surrounding countryside – experiences of Oxford summers in which, except for partial uniform, they could temporarily leave wartime behind. Balliol Archives FFU 7.55K

Balliol Archives FFU 7.57E

This album can be viewed in full online here.

exhibition ending

Today I took down the medieval manuscripts exhibition. Thanks to all who visited! It went well – a report will appear in the new year, and of course blog posts etc will continue to appear, and will remain, here on the blog.

Dismantling an exhibition is not something that’s usually documented, perhaps because it’s such an anticlimax. But it’s a good task for the end of the year, leaving everything safely back in storage and the decks cleared for new adventures.

monthly report – November 2017

Some numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during November:

  • Number of enquiries: 59
  • Running total for 2017: 693
  • Number of researchers in person (unique users): 11
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 16
  • Collections consulted: Morier, Jowett, AL Smith, Mallet, JL Strachan-Davidson (2), college records, medieval mss (3), David Urquhart, Francis Urquhart, Francis Oppenheimer
  • Productions (consulted by researchers in person or by the archivist in response to enquiries) – actual numbers may be slightly higher:
    • 17 boxes containing from two bound volumes to 4 thick files of individual items, not including
    • 16 files – up to 200 items per file, not including
    • 14  individual items from a single letter to a bound volume, not including
    • 51 medieval ms codices
  • No of non-research visitors: ca 140
  • images created: 800
  • events: with colleagues, staffed the College Archivists’ stand at the Graduate Thesis fair
  • exhibition open, with curator’s introduction, Q&A and discussion, for:
    • Balliol MCR (15)
    • tutor & students from Harris Manchester (15)
    • mentor & trainees from the Bodleian Conservation department (8)
    • tutor & students from Mansfield (4)
    • Dept of Education (4)
    • senior tutor & students from MCMRS (7)
    • tutor & students from Oxford MSt in Medieval Studies (13)
    • tutor & students from Balliol English (8)
    • OCC conservators (6)
    • tutor & students from Dept of History of Art (7)
    • Bodleian Libraries’ & Oxford Brookes SCONUL trainees (15)
    • private visitors (12)
    • total 114 (at least)

Some of the enquiry topics received in November:

  • advice re archival sources and research
  • advice re archival training and careers
  • requests for permission to quote from or publish images of archival material
  • requests for (new) digital images of medieval manuscripts
  • Balliol’s holdings of pre-800 and 17th century manuscripts
  • a Balliol tartan!
  • Biographical research re / info on Balliol or related archives of
    • people who were not members of Balliol
    • C18 and early C20 College servants
    • R Scott (Balliol 1835)
    • JA Spender (Balliol 1881)
    • A Entwisle (Balliol TT 1863)
    • GM Hopkins (Balliol TT 1863)
    • B Entwisle (Balliol TT 1869)
    • F Oppenheimer (Balliol 1890)
    • JHR Grenfell (Balliol 1906)
    • LU Kay-Shuttleworth (Balliol 1906)
    • EJ Kay-Shuttleworth (Balliol 1908)
    • GW Grenfell (Balliol 1909)
    • RP Haldane (Balliol 1911)
    • HS Malik (Balliol 1912)
    • L Fleming (Balliol 1922)
    • NM Roger (Balliol 1929)
    • A S-R Pyper (Balliol 1935)
    • OD Pratt (Balliol 1938)
    • CB Hobhouse (Balliol 1928)
    • NAM Grant Duff (Balliol 1928)

termly report – Michaelmas 2017

 This report covers the Archivist’s work May-November 2017.

A) Enquiries, researchers & visitors



  • Enquiries: 60
  • Researchers – unique users:  5
  • Seats occupied: 7
  • Collections consulted in person:  Oriental mss, western medieval mss, Jowett papers
  • Files produced May-Sept:  33 boxes, 83 files, 50 items and 74 mss
  • Visitors (non-research):  ca. 20


  • Enquiries: 62
  • Unique users:  4
  • Seats occupied:  4
  • Collections consulted in person:  Nicolson diaries, college records, medieval mss (2)
  • Visitors (non-research): ca. 55


  • Enquiries: 54
  • Unique users: 11
  • Seats occupied: 16
  • Collections consulted:  Monckton (4), Morier, college records, Strachan-Davidson, Clough, medieval mss, David Urquhart
  • Visitors (non-research): ca. 50


  • Enquiries: 44
  • Unique users: 6
  • Seats occupied: 12
  • Collections consulted in person:  Monckton (2), medieval mss, TH Green, Rawnsley, Jowett
  • Visitors (non-research): 3


  • Enquiries: 61
  • Unique users: 3
  • Seats occupied: 5
  • Collections consulted in person:  College records, medieval manuscripts (3)
  • Visitors (non-research): 400+


  • Enquiries: 55
  • Unique users: 10
  • Seats occupied: 13
  • Collections consulted in person:  College records,  medieval mss (3), Browning, Nicolson, Monckton (2), Jowett, TH Green, Caird, RBD Morier, AL Smith
  • Files produced: 20 boxes, 14 files, 61 items and 24 mss
  • Visitors (non-research): ca. 55

November (incomplete at the time of reporting)

  • Enquiries: 43
  • Unique users: 8
  • Seats occupied: 15
  • Collections consulted in person:  College records,  medieval mss (3),  David Urquhart, Jowett, TH Green, RBD Morier, AL Smith, Oppenheimer, FF Urquhart
  • Files produced: 6 boxes, 3 files, 11 items and 34 mss
  • Visitors (non-research): 110+

Period totals

  • Enquiries: 379
  • Unique users: 47
  • Seats occupied: 72
  • Files produced: 53 boxes, 97 files, 101 items and 98 mss
  • Visitors (non-research): 860+

2017 running totals

  • Enquiries: 677
  • Unique users: 79
  • Seats occupied: 116
  • Visitors (non-research): 920+

*Files produced: one production slip may record anything from a single item to a complete box. These numbers tell more about the amount of fetching and carrying involved than about the volume, breadth or detail of material consulted. The number includes material consulted by the archivist while researching responses to remote enquiries as well as those produced to researchers in person.

 – A box may contain up to 10 bound volumes or 6 files containing several hundred individual items. Numbers of boxes given do not include files.

– A file may contain up to 200 items. Numbers of files given do not include items. 

– Individual items may range from a single letter to a bound volume. Numbers of items given do not include medieval ms codices.

A sample of research topics, by researchers in person and remote enquirers, from the reporting period:

‘I am assessing materials available and avenues of research on the history of the church of St Lawrence Jewry.’  (May)

‘[I would like to consult] the archives of James Justinian Morier… I am particularly interested in any correspondence, diaries or drawings/paintings relating to his accompanying the British intervention in the Russian-Iranian agreement that led to the signing of the treaty of Gulistan on the 24th October 1813.’ (June)

‘I am writing a book about the 1848 revolutions and I am interested in Arthur Hugh Clough, Arthur Stanley and Benjamin Jowett.’ (July)

‘I am looking in letters sent from India for evidence of health and health care in C19 India.’ (August)

‘I am looking for evidence of payments made in connection with the plates contained in Oxonia Illustrata to David Loggan, the engraver, ca 1670-1675, either by the colleges  or by the dedicatee (Sir Henry Littleton).’ (September)

‘My research work relates to the Anglo-American expatriate circle around Katherine Bronson in Venice during the 1880s.’ (October)

A digest of remote enquiry topics is now included in the monthly blog reports as well.

B) Arrangement & description and collection care

Lists by JHJ; edited and posted online by Anna:

  • Letters of Muriel Hatherley Rendell, later Cathcart
  • Papers relating to St Mary’s Portsea during WW1 (Hilda Pickard-Cambridge & OA Hunt)
  • Papers of AC Bradley, Fellow of Balliol
  • Courtenay Peregrine Ilbert (1841-1924), Balliol 1860 (Fellow 1864, Bursar 1871-1874)
  • Papers of Francis Oppenheimer
  • Papers of Peter Lyne re St Cross Church

Papers of AF Giles (Balliol 1936), 100+ fascicled letters to his parents while a student at Balliol and active in student politics and the Union, 1936-1939 (2 volumes & 3 mounted photos). Listed by Anna and posted online.

The Caird Papers have been physically numbered to correspond with JHJ’s relisting and better descriptions. The TH Green, David Urquhart and Morier Family papers have additional descriptions and clearer numbering. and improved physical numbering.

Medieval mss: boxing more than 100 manuscripts for the first time resulted in the need to adjust some of the shelving on N5. Shelving changes, shelf check and updated finding aid are complete.

Conservation: treatment of several medieval manuscripts was completed over the summer in preparation for the MT exhibition. In particular, MS 354 (Richard Hill’s commonplace book) has had key repairs to the sewing structure and badly softened page edges, and has been reboxed to replace an old non-acid free Maltby’s box. While it is still fragile and requires careful and minimal handling, it is now safe to produce for (a very limited number of) researchers again.


Social media

  • Facebook: 1003 Likes. Weekly updates, links to blog posts, notices of events, etc.
  • Twitter: 2172 total Tweets, 1602 followers
  • Blog: 30 new posts

Image management

  • Oxfile (OUCS) – used 24 times Sept-Oct, total 339 times, to send images, externally and within college, across archival collections.
  • I have been working with Emma Stanford and her successor at the Bodleian to correct some old (1997-2000) errors and missing images in the Balliol sets on http://image.ox.ac.uk/ , as the old site will be taken down once the contents have been checked and added to http://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ .
  • Images created: 20K. More than 111K images on Flickr and 2.75 M views.

Outreach & Events


  • Anna & Gabrielle – handling workshop for Balliol English students
  • Unlocking Archives talk: Nikki Tomkins (OCC) on conserving Nicholas Crouch books for Wellcome project
  • Watford Girls’ Grammar school groups – manuscripts activity (repeat visit but new activity)


  • Bodleian archives & mss trainees – tour & careers talk (repeat visit)


  • Oxford Research & Innovation Support Conference delegates – general tour (recommended)
  • Dr Juliana Dresvina & students from St Peter’s College Summer School at Magdalen College – medieval manuscripts workshop


  • Open Doors – 7th year, medieval mss exhibition open, 300+ visitors
  • Balliol Society Weekend – medieval mss exhibition open
  • Evensong for the patronal feast of St Cross
  • Exhibition continues open all Michaelmas term
  • Visit to exhibition and service of Evening Prayer by participants in college incumbents’ conference


  • Antechapel displays and ‘Document in Focus’ features in Broad St Library, prepared by Anna, continue
  • Bruce’s Brunch talk by Anna re college history & special collections
  • Individual visitors to exhibition including Fellows and Old Members


  • with colleagues, staffed the College Archives stall at the postgraduate history thesis fair, Examination Schools
  • with Librarians, hosted an MCR viewing of the medieval manuscripts exhibition plus open display and discussion of early printed books (ca 15 attending)
  • Medievalists visiting exhibition, introduction and Q&A with Anna: tutors with students from Harris Manchester, Mansfield, the Education Department, Middlebury CMRS (Keble), Bodleian Conservation department’s preservation volunteers & staff
  • DIY Digitization workshop with Prof Henrike Laehnemann (SEH) for Palaeography, History of the Book, Digital Humanities Method Option MSt (following on from Prof Wakelin’s workshop in 2016)
  • Handling workshop and medieval manuscripts exhibition with Helen Appleton for Balliol 2nd year English students (return visit)
  • Oxford Conservation Consortium staff visiting exhibition (i.e. from the Grove Cottage studio)
  • Oxford Conservation Group visiting exhibition (conservators from Bodleian, Ashmolean, ORO, independents etc.)

Future events

Scheduled so far:

  • Display re Balliol’s WW1 poets and poetry (spring 18) & related talk/event
  • Book launch for Lynda Dennison’s ‘Oxford: All Souls-Lincoln’ volume of An Index of Images in English Manuscripts, from the time of Chaucer to Henry VII, c.1380 – c.1509, series ed. Kathleen Scott (Balliol has the largest section!) (HT18)
  • 3rd Holywell Manor Festival (April 18)
  • Visit from Wolvercote Local History Society (June 18)
  • Open Doors Oxford (Sept 18)
  • Exhibition of Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch project (MT18) & related talk/event
  • Oxfordshire Record Society AGM & visit to exhibition (Sept 18)
  • Loan of Gerard Manley Hopkins material to Campion Hall for display during GMH Symposium (Sept 18)
  • Display of photos and archives for Chalet Trust event (Sept 18)


Anna CPD:

  • Attended Archives Hub training meeting for college archivists (June)
  • Attended ‘Recent conservation and research on the two Winchester Bibles: a day symposium’ at the Weston Library (June)
  • Oxford-Cambridge & Inns of Court archivists’ meeting (July)
  • Chapter on handling special collections material finally appeared in Loffman, Claire, and Harriet Phillips, eds. A Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts. Routledge, 2017. (July)
  • Visit to Somerville College Library & Archives (August)
  • Attended OCG-OAC-CCL talk by Chris Woods (one of the authors) on BS 4971, the new environmental standard for the conservation and care of archive and library collections (November)
  • Attended talk by Matthew Holford (Bodleian) about the use of TEI (text encoding initiative) for creating electronic catalogues of medieval manuscript books from hard-copy data in print catalogues, based on his experience of projects at the Bodleian and at Christ Church (November).

Balliol student Kai Dowding (Balliol 2017, MSt Medieval Studies) is working with Anna on Friday afternoons in MT-HT for practical archival experience.

More details, more often, on social media:




– Anna Sander, MT 2017 (November)


monthly report October 2017

Some numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during October:

  • Number of enquiries: 55
  • Running total for 2017: 634
  • Number of researchers in person (unique user): 10
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 13 (open 16 days)
  • Collections consulted: college records,  medieval manuscripts (3), Browning papers, Nicolson diaries, Monckton archive (2), Jowett archive, TH Green papers, Caird papers, RBD Morier archive, AL Smith archive
  • Productions (consulted by researchers in person or by the archivist in response to enquiries) – actual numbers may be slightly higher:
    • 20 boxes containing from two bound volumes to 4 thick files of individual items, not including
    •  14 files – up to 200 items per file, not including
    •  61 individual items from a single letter to a bound volume, not including
    •  24 medieval ms codices
  • No of non-research visitors: ca. 55
  • images created: 1100
  • events: Anna gave the first Bruce’s Brunch talk (Balliol Chaplain’s weekly lunchtime seminar) of the academic year; Librarians hosted English Faculty 18th Century Seminar with a display of rare books; Librarians hosted Oxford Brookes publishing course students.

Some of the enquiry topics received in October:

  • advice re archives cataloguing and preservation
  • advice re student/volunteer projects in archives
  • requests for permission to quote from or publish images of archival material
  • requests for (new) digital images of medieval manuscripts
  • college portraits and paintings, including mural paintings
  • stained glass in Chapel
  • records of college livings and related estates/property
  • C19 overseas students at Oxford
  • Balliol men who were German casualties in WW1
  • Balliol JCR Presidents
  • Biographical research re / info on Balliol or related archives of
    • C18 and early C20 College servants
    • G Moberly (Balliol 1822)
    • GO Roos (Balliol 1887)
    • F Oppenheimer (Balliol 1890)
    • AB Muir (Balliol HT 1915)
    • Shoghi Effendi (Shogi Hadi Rabbani in Balliol’s records), Balliol 1920
    • EF Webb (Balliol 1926)
    • DM Davin (Balliol 1936)
    • MR Hardwick (Balliol 1945)

guest post – manuscript fragments in early printed books

As part of Balliol College’s project to survey the use of manuscript fragments in its early printed book collection, I have had the pleasure of spending many hours systematically inspecting each book in search of these hidden treasures. Currently only a fraction of the way through the collection, we have already found fragments in over 35 early printed books, testifying to the frequency of the practice.

These fragments, found in books ranging from 10cm-40cm in length, appear in many forms. Some are full page flyleaves or pastedowns, many are stubs which give support to the inside covers, others are cut into strips and used to reinforce sewing supports beneath their coverings. One small book of multiplication tables has used a document complete with notary mark and curved edging as its cover, repurposing a serious legal record as something creative and even decorative – from legally binding to mathematical binding!

It’s easy to see why manuscript fragments were favoured for this type of work. In a period where texts were transitioning from parchment to paper, the difference between the two materials in terms of durability must have been marked. Combined with the availability of manuscripts, and the value apparently placed on print (as a new and exciting technology) over commonplace manuscript texts (such as we see in the fragments), recycling parchment in this way was a very practical way of strengthening bindings and protecting the paper pages.[1]

The types of texts being used in the early printed books in the collection are various. The majority so far have been in Latin, with some in English and at least one in French. Most are from the 14th and 15th centuries, but some fragments seem to be as early as 13th century. In terms of content, there are legal documents, personal letters (how our curiosity has been piqued by the sad tale of the man whose wife has left him with 3 children to care for!), ecclesiastical texts, musical notation, and what appears to be a homily emulating the enraged style of the 10th century Archbishop Wulfstan.

One of the aims of the project is to photograph these fragments to make them available online. This poses a number of challenges.  The early printed books themselves date from 15th and 16th centuries and are, as one would expect, fragile. The spines will not lie flat without causing damage which, when one simply wants to read the text, is no problem at all, but when the use of the fragments is to strengthen the very structure of the book, careful thought needs to be given to how to access fragments  tucked away down towards the fragile spine. In a number of instances, photographs have simply not been possible for this reason.

Conversely, the condition of some of the bindings have actually enabled us to see the fragments better, as some have deteriorated to leave fragments exposed. One of the frustrating things for the curious medievalist is the suspicion that leaves of medieval texts have been used in a binding, but having no way to access them.[2] When later binding is found in poor condition, a curious mix of reactions occurs: a clear desire to protect the book, combined with mischievous delight at what might be revealed. In these cases, it is often that a parchment spine has cracked or disintegrated, or that pastedowns are now lifting.

In all cases, the photography of these fragments is tricky. To photograph stubs, the book must be supported on foam blocks and opened at a suitable angle depending on the flexibility of the spine. The parchment itself is not smooth, and the camera can struggle to focus on the right part of the book. In order to take a picture of useable quality, some contortion is generally needed, trying different angles with the camera whilst carefully holding down fragments with a pair of bone holders. Seasoned yoga practitioners and the addition of a third or fourth hand are desirable attributes!

The photographs get labelled and uploaded to Balliol’s Flickr account for interested parties to view. Medievalists can examine the texts and try to identify them; book historians can see further examples of binding techniques from the early modern period; and we can also perhaps use these fragments to tell us something about how the texts that they came from were valued during this time. Whilst many of the texts that we are discovering might be understood to be commonplace (the legal documents, for example, or other texts which appear to be unremarkable in terms of appearance), some were clearly prized at the time of writing. The musical notation of 470d13, for example, is decorative, using red and blue inks for initials, and the script is in a neat gothic hand. Care was obviously taken in the writing of this text, but by the time of binding, the value of the early modern work (Cunningham’s Cosmographie) was deemed to be far greater. Of course, this does not necessarily indicate that Cunningham’s work was intrinsically more important than the medieval one: it could be that the rest of the medieval text had deteriorated beyond reasonable use as a codex, or that some other flaw had been found in it, making this particular version redundant. What these fragments do tell us is what texts were available to the binders at the time and how the material was repurposed.

It would be interesting to survey the use of these fragments, identify them and see what (if any) correlation could be found between the types of text and the individual book binders (this would involve examining a far larger collection than Balliol’s alone), but by increasing the accessibility of these fragments through this project, further research on this interesting topic can contribute to wider understanding of the phenomenon.

 – Annaliese Griffiss, Michaelmas term 2017. Follow Annaliese’s archival adventures on Twitter @aglaecwif!

[1] Whilst the vast majority of the fragments are on parchment, there are also examples of paper manuscripts being used as flyleaves as well.

[2] Though Erik Kwakkel has experimented with the use of x-rays. https://medievalbooks.nl/2015/12/18/x-rays-expose-a-hidden-medieval-library/

Photos of the manuscript fragments discovered so far, with descriptions, are appearing on our Flickr site at https://www.flickr.com/photos/balliolarchivist/sets/72157683085214934/ and descriptions of the fragments with links to their host volumes’ SOLO catalogue entries are also at http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Ancient%20MSS/msfragments.asp

Summer Vac on facebook

‘Vacation’ in Oxford parlance, often shortened to Vac, means ‘out of term time’; the three academic teaching terms  (semesters) run for 8 very intense weeks each and are known by the church feasts near their beginnings: autumn’s Michaelmas Term (feast of St Michael, 29 September), winter’s Hilary Term (feast of St Hilary of Poitiers, 13 January), and spring’s Trinity Term (movable feast in May/June depending dates of Easter > Pentecost). Vacation doesn’t mean everyone in Oxford goes on holiday – the emphasis turns to research instead of teaching. For anyone who works in special collections, vacations are often busier than term time, with Oxford academics and students more free to come and do their research.

I post brief monthly statistics here, but for readers who just can’t get enough archives news, there’s a weekly update on Facebook as well. Here’s the roundup for the Summer Vac:

26 June

Long Vacation – for returning undergraduates, that is. This week in the archives: medieval manuscripts & early printed books researchers, a visit from the Bodleian’s archives and library trainees from across the colleges and university, and fire suppression system testing. Enquiry 400 did indeed appear last week, as did new digital images of MSS 80, 148 and 247. https://www.flickr.com/photos/balliolarchivist/albums

3 July

July. This week in the archives: researchers for the Monckton and Morier archives, a visit from participants in the University of Oxford Research and Innovation Support Conference, and a gathering of archivists from Oxford and Cambridge colleges and London’s Inns of Court giving papers on Unbuilt Oxford. I’m working on a rather large reprographics request, September exhibition prep, and processing recent accessions. I’ll be out of the office on Tuesday attending the Oxbridge/Inns day at St John’s.

10 July

Long Vac. Last week’s spate of researchers is not continued this week, so on with exhibition planning, arrangement & description, digitization requests etc.

17 July

This week pretty much as last week, with a reader for the Strachan-Davidson papers and several for EPBs. There are so many short deadlines throughout the year for temporary displays, college events, visitors, enquiries etc etc that the rare ‘slack’ weeks with fewer external demands are when all the behind the scenes essentials get done. Lots of ongoing tasks, rather than finite projects, that will get at least some attention each.

24 July

More footfall at St Cross this last week in July: researchers for the Clough and Monckton archives, and Juliana ‘Julie’ Dresvina bringing her summer school class to learn about medieval manuscripts.

31 July

This week: August! 6 weeks until the exhibition opens… Researchers for the Boat Club records, Monckton papers and medieval manuscripts. July stats will be appearing on the blog today.

7 Aug

August in the archives: a researcher for the Monckton papers, preparation for a busy September. That is ‘all’.

Here’s a marginal sneeze from MS 238B f17r. The rest:https://www.flickr.com/…/balliolarch…/sets/72157630983831414

14 Aug

Mid-August: this week in the archives, researchers for the Jowett and TH Green papers.

Dissertation suggestion: women as co-creators (credited and uncredited), curators, editors, collectors, preservers, depositors of Great Men’s Archives. A few Balliol examples: Martha Knight, Charlotte (Symonds) Green, Blanche (Shore Smith) Clough, Mary (Baird) Smith, Harriet (Fortescue) Urquhart, Margaret Deneke…

21 Aug

August: deepest part of the Vac, busiest time for University Admissions, the SCR is closed for lunch. Work in the archives rolls on regardless: this week, a researcher is bravely tackling Benjamin Jowett’s spidery handwriting all week.

Starting preparations for the Open Doors weekend (9-10 September) – St Cross will be open 12-4pm both days for the 7th year. Come by for a look at the building restoration and quite a lot of medieval manuscripts on display! Staff, including the exhibition curator (hemhem) will be on hand on answer questions about the building and the collections.

OHCT Ride & Stride participants are very welcome on the Saturday as well! Do please note though that the church will not be open all day, only 12-4pm, so if you want to be sure of having your sponsorship forms signed at St Cross, do plan your itinerary accordingly.

Patronal Festival: a service of Evening Prayer will be held in the chancel of St Cross, Holywell, to mark the Feast of the Holy Cross (moved from the 14th) on Sunday, 17 September 2017
at 5pm. (NB not the same weekend as Open Doors.) Everyone is welcome. Celebrant: the Revd Dr William Lamb, Vicar of the University Church.

11 Sept

More than 300 visitors to Open Doors over the weekend 😀 The medieval manuscripts exhibition is well and truly launched – if you missed it at Open Doors, don’t worry, it’s open until December. There may be some more public opening hours advertised later in the term, but individual and group visitors are very welcome almost any time by appointment. 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. Please come! More about the manuscripts exhibition at https://balliolarchivist.wordpress.com/ #mss2017

18 Sept

This week in the archives, Balliol Society (alumni) visitors to the exhibition on Saturday afternoon, a service for the patronal feast yesterday evening, a reader for medieval manuscripts, and incumbents of Balliol livings visiting the exhibition tomorrow.

Individual and group visitors to the exhibition of medieval manuscripts are very welcome almost any time by appointment. 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. More about the manuscripts exhibition athttps://balliolarchivist.wordpress.com/ #mss2017


Patronal Festival – service at St Cross

A service of Evening Prayer will be held in the chancel of St Cross, Holywell, to mark the Feast of the Holy Cross on Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 5pm

Everyone is welcome

Celebrant: the Revd Dr William Lamb, Vicar of the University Church

St Cross is a daughter church of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, High Street. The recently restored Grade I listed building has been home to the Historic Collections Centre of Balliol College since 2011; its Chancel is preserved for occasional services.

St Cross is at the corner of St Cross Road and Manor Road, next to Holywell Manor and across Manor Road from the English & Law Faculty building. Directions: http://archives.balliol.ox.ac.uk/Services/visit.asp#f

#mss2017 Case 10: MS 396


Guard-book (hardbound fascicule volume) containing five leaves of an early 14th century noted Sarum Breviary, written in two columns of 28 lines with large red and blue flourished capitals. 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, who was checking College records on behalf of a Mr Richardson.

In addition to the obvious holes in the parchment, the unknown early C20 conservator observed that the material was damaged and fragile throughout, and applied a then popular method known as silking, or chiffon repair: a fine silk gauze was glued to both sides of the parchment. This was considered less invasive than the other method available at the time, which covered the damaged area with translucent paper.

Detail of MS 396, darkened and contrast enhanced to show layers of silking – more visible where the parchment has been lost, but present over both sides of the full page.

Silking certainly reinforced the parchment while leaving the text and music largely visible from both sides, but it is hard to tell now how much of the brown discoloration may have been caused by the adhesives used in the silking process. The glue still gives off a distinct smell, but it would cause more damage to the leaves now to remove the silking than to leave it in place. The leaves are reasonably safe to consult as they are, so no further intervention will be made for now.

A breviary is one of the liturgical books used for the Office, the cycle of daily church services other than the Mass. It includes the text and musical notation, shown here in square black notes, known as neumes, on a red four-line stave. A direct descendant of this system, which indicates mode, pitch and relative note length, is still used for traditional Gregorian chant. Are these manuscript fragments related to any of the other pieces of liturgical manuscript recycled as binding waste in Balliol’s administrative records and early printed books, or elsewhere in Oxford? A question for future research…

More about Silking

More about medieval musical liturgical manuscripts

Annual Record – MS 116

Balliol MS 116 f68r (detail)

Further details about the illustration in the Archivist’s report, Annual Record 2017:

The manuscript of which this illuminated initial is part is Balliol MS 116, a 13th century copy of Eustratius’ In Ethica, a Greek commentary on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics whose translation into Latin was an important later work of  Robert Grosseteste (c.1170–1253), the prominent and prolific scientist, theologian, and bishop of Lincoln. While teaching at Oxford 1225-1231, Grosseteste became rector of the parish of Abbotsley in Huntingdonshire (now in Cambridgeshire). A century later, the young Balliol College acquired the advowson of this parish, which it still holds.

In this illustration on folio 68 recto (detail) showing unusual relevance to the adjacent text, two tiny winged grotesques converse inside a foliate initial D at the beginning of Book IV, ‘Dicamus autem deinceps de liberalitate’ (‘Moreover, let us speak next of generosity.’) The illumination measures 30 x 30 mm (just over an inch square) as enclosed by the blue square border. More images of this manuscript can be viewed online.

The original will be on display during the Michaelmas exhibition of Balliol’s medieval manuscripts at St Cross.

MS116-f068raBalliol MS 116 f.68r, full page, measuring 225 x 340 mm, close to the modern A4 (210 by 297 mm) or North American 8 1/2 x 11″.

More about each of Balliol’s medieval manuscript books

RAB Mynors’ catalogue of the manuscripts

Explore images from across Balliol’s archives and manuscript collections

OAC meeting

Oxford/Cambridge/City of London Archivists’ Meeting

4th July 2017, St. John’s College, Oxford

Five Centuries of Oxford College Architecture

10.30     Arrive; coffee

11.00     Session 1

Chair: Michael Riordan

Julian Reid (Corpus/Merton), ‘The best-laid plans: designing a Tudor college’

Robin Darwall-Smith (All Souls/Jesus/Univ.), ‘Benefactions, fund-raising, Civil War and
Commonwealth: University College tries to build a quadrangle’

12.00     Tour of St. John’s College

1.00        Sandwich lunch

2.00        Session 2

Chair: Robin Darwall-Smith

Judith Curthoys (Christ Church), ‘The great rebuilding: Christ Church ups its game’

Oliver Mahony (LMH/St Hilda’s) and Anne Manuel (Somerville), ‘The “Wrennaissance” – colleges for women at Oxford’

3.00        Tea

3.30        Session 3

Chair: Judith Curthoys

Richard Allen (St. Peter’s), ‘St Peter’s Unbuilt’

Michael Riordan (Queen’s/St. John’s), ‘The Beehive: conservatism and radicalism in post-war St. John’s’

4.30        Closing remarks

Chair: Anna Sander

5.00        Formal finish, followed by informal adjournment to the Lamb & Flag

* * *

Closing remarks

Thanks to Mike for organising an excellent day, St John’s College for generously hosting us, the speakers who among them represent 12 colleges as present employers and even more in their previous experience, and our visitors from London and the Other Place.

I was asked to mention themes connecting the papers throughout the day – there have been plenty, and several have already been noted by the speakers. We’ve been taken all over Oxford and through the ages from C16-21, from cockloft to cellar by way of the piano nobile, through all levels of architecture and college society. We’ve seen a gamut of budgets, ambitions, intentions and degrees of success. There have been contrasts between monastic and secular foundations, and those built for men and women. There have been considerable insights into the history of fundraising – and coping with benefactions.  We have heard about new buildings on old premises, old buildings repurposed, ancient buildings hidden behind modern faces, and old buildings swept away altogether to make way for new ones. And some that have remained only dreamed-of spires.

I have particularly appreciated the unusually wide range of record formats we’ve seen today from all periods: accounts, plans, sketches, drawings, architectural models, letters, minutes, stained glass, photographs, receipts, stone carvings, woodwork, sculpture and skeletons. And of course, in many cases the buildings themselves.

Through every college’s history of wizard wheezes and financial flops, I think the day showed that across time and despite wide differences in other factors, the main influences on college building projects have been politics internal and external, money and the lack of it, and perhaps most of all, personalities.

termly report Trinity Term 2017

TT17 Week 6 HT (June) Library Committee

Archivist’s report

This paper reports on the Archivist’s work February – April 2017.

A) Enquiries, researchers & visitors


  • Enquiries: 62
  • Unique users: 8
  • Seats occupied: 15
  • Collections consulted:  medieval mss, George Malcolm, David Urquhart, Persian & Turkish mss, Jenkyns papers, college records
  • Visitors (non-research): 60+


  • Enquiries: 92
  • Unique users: 12
  • Seats occupied: 12
  • Collections consulted: medieval mss (4), Greene-Reid papers, Persian & Arabic mss, Malcolm, Morier Family and RBD Morier archives, Monckton papers, college records (2)
  • Visitors (non-research): ca40


  • Enquiries: 60
  • Unique users: 4
  • Seats occupied: 7
  • Collections consulted: oriental MSS (2), western medieval mss, college records
  • Visitors (non-research): 55+

Period totals/2017 running totals


  • Enquiries: 214/298
  • Unique users: 24/32
  • Seats occupied: 34/43
  • Visitors (non-research) 155+ / Ca 160

* * *

A handful of research topics, by researchers in person and remote enquirers, from the reporting period:

‘I research horizontal tree diagrams in the margins of manuscripts of the Lombard’s Sentences, among others. I want to see if these copies have some interesting marginalia, and if there are to note the folio numbers and perhaps take pictures or order images. I am interested especially the one that perhaps contains Rufus’ notes. The other volume is to satisfy my interest in the indexing procedure of the tabulae.’

‘ I am researching the London property market at the time of the Great Fire of 1666 – and I am finding out about College property holdings in the Square Mile. I have published on various aspects of the City of London in the 17th and 18th centuries. ‘



‘I am currently preparing the publication of my PhD thesis on the mise en page and the illustrations in medieval manuscripts containing Aristotelian treatises, to be published by Böhlau Verlag, Cologne, Germany, later this year. I would love to include some illustrations of MS 253, a particularly densely glossed manuscript of Aristotle’s logical treatises and contains some very original depictions of teaching scenes. On your wonderful website, I found photos of excellent quality, and I would like to ask for permission to publish them in my thesis.’

  1. B) Arrangement & description and collection care

John Jones’ lists of papers of Julian Miller (Balliol 1957) and Arthur Hugh Sidgwick (Balliol 1903), both listed for the first time, are now online.

In response to specific external enquiries, I have checked, ordered and numbered several files of the David Urquhart and Morier Family archives, and added item-level descriptions for all items to the online catalogues (files run to 50+ items). It is unfortunate that the physical items were not numbered when the papers were catalogued in the 1990s.

Conservation: Housing of all the manuscript books is now complete, with many thanks to OCC and PADS. There are still some old boxes that need replacing, but this is not urgent, and can be done in tandem with planned conservation of those individual manuscripts. Treatment of several manuscripts, notably MS 354 (Richard Hill’s commonplace book of ca 1510), continues in preparation for September’s exhibition.

C) Engagement

Social media

• Facebook: 937 Likes. Weekly updates, links to blog posts, notices of events, etc.

• Twitter: 1900 total Tweets, 1494 followers

• Blog: 17 new posts including several school group activities

Image management

• Oxfile (OUCS)– used 32 times Feb-Apr, total 290 times, to send images, externally and within college, across archival collections.

• Images created: 8000+.

  • Browning draft/printer’s proofs volumes (MSS 387-392) have been photographed in full
  • Images of all 10 volumes of Clark’s annual lists of Balliol members 1520-1822 are online – a key college history/family history/biographical research resource.

Outreach & Events:

• Antechapel displays and ‘Document in Focus’ features in Broad St Library, prepared by Anna, continue


  • • medieval mss display by Anna continued & taken down
  • • George Malcolm centenary exhibition by Giles Dawson opened
  • • Unlocking Archives talk by Monica Kendall on 18th century letters, Jane Austen and social history
  • • Unlocking Archives talk by Giles Dawson on George Malcolm’s centenary


  • • George Malcolm centenary exhibition continued, and taken down
  • • Unlocking Archives talk by Lucy Kelsall on the cataloguing side of the Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch project
  • • Library staff lead Into University group visit at St Cross
  • • display of newly acquired Jowett letters for Jowett Society launch event in Broad Street.


  • • temporary Prof Les Woods memorial exhibition by Jo Ashbourn open, and taken down
  • • Les Woods memorial event at St Cross
  • • Anna & Gabrielle present hands-on special collections
  • handling training workshop for Balliol English & History students
  • • Anna with colleagues staffing college archivists’ table at undergraduate History Thesis Fair

D) Future events

Summer schedule so far:

  • • Watford Girls’ Grammar school groups for a manuscripts activity (repeat visit)
  • • Wolvercote Local History Society, theme tbc by them (Old Member contact) [postponed]
  • • Bodleian archives & mss trainees for a careers talk (repeat visit)
  • • Oxford Research & Innovation Support Conference delegates for a general tour (recommended)
  • • Open Doors: St Cross will be open for Oxford Open Doors, weekend of 9-10 September, 12-4pm both days.

This will be the 7th year that Balliol has opened St Cross to the public for Open Doors, and hundreds of people keep coming! I hope the medieval mss exhibition, which will be launched for this open weekend and then continue throughout MT17, will be an extra draw this year.





F) CPD/training/staff

Anna CPD:

  • • attended meetings of the Management Committee of the Oxford Conservation Consortium in February and April
  • • attended Gerald Aylmer Seminar 2017 (London, IHR): ‘Strongroom to Seminar: archives and teaching in higher education’ (February)
  • • attended Teaching the Codex II colloquium on the pedagogy of palaeography and codicology (May)

We note with sadness the death of Prof Elliott Horowitz z”l (Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow 2014-15) in March 2017. He had completed the beautiful and successful Hebraica & Judaica exhibition at St Cross in Michaelmas 2016, culminating in a day of fascinating talks by Oxford experts in November.


– Anna Sander, TT 2017 (June)

Trinity Term on facebook

I post brief monthly statistics here, but for readers who just can’t get enough archives news, there’s a weekly update on Facebook as well. Here’s the roundup for Trinity Term:

We’re now on Summer Time. This week in the archives: researchers for medieval manuscripts, Monckton archive, college records, Oriental manuscripts, incunabula. The Malcolm exhibition has closed. I’m looking forward to a first visit to Lincoln College’s archives. It’s the last week of March, so I’ll be rounding up the month’s enquiries and other statistics for the usual report on the blog.
The important Oxbridge news this week: the Boat Race! Congratulations to the Cambridge women and Oxford men – both the Cambridge Women’s Blue boat and Blondie (Cambridge women’s reserve boat) won, as did the Oxford Men’s Blue boat and Isis (Oxford men’s reserve boat). The Lightweight races took place at Henley earlier in the week; Cambridge-heavy results at http://henleyboatraces.com/…/henley-boat-races-2017-results….

This week in the archives: more sensors installed in the big repositories, to give us a better picture of the climatic conditions via the BMS. Otherwise an unusually quiet week (so far) for researchers and visitors, so I will be putting together and mounting a new display for the antechapel, taking and processing photos for reprographics orders, creating a monthly report, writing up some new Documents in Focus sheets for the college library next term, planning a couple of upcoming displays for college events… oh and I might just get some cataloguing done.

The archives will be closed Wednesday 12 April – Monday 17 April incl. I will be back on Tuesday 18 April – Week 0 of Trinity Term.
Normal service has resumed – week 0 of Trinity Term. Just readers for medieval mss and early printed books, so while it’s still quiet in the search room, I’m preparing for the Les Woods memorial display next week, a workshop for students on correct handling of fragile materials, a visit by parishioners from a Balliol living, the history thesis fair, and a number of other entirely unrelated things coming up. And expecting enquiry no. 300 any day now.
Trinity Term! TT1 in the archives: researchers looking at (and photographing) medieval manuscripts, history thesis fair at Exam Schools, preparing for a visit by parishioners of a College living and for a joint presentation on correct handling of special collections material.

Temporary exhibition this week: Prof. Leslie Colin Woods (1922-2007), Tutorial Fellow of Balliol in Engineering Science 1960-70, Professor of Mathematics and Professorial Fellow of Balliol 1970-90, Emeritus Fellow 1991-2007.

Exhibition curator Dr Joanna Ashbourn draws from the Les Woods Archive at Balliol College to illustrate aspects of Prof Woods’ personal life, his experience as a World War II fighter pilot, and his long and varied academic career.

Open to the public Tues-Fri 25-28 April 2017, 2.30-5pm
Balliol Historic Collections Centre, St Cross Church, Manor Rd. OX1 3UH (ring the buzzer on the side of the notice board).
Questions? archivist[at]balliol.ox.ac.uk
May Day in Oxford to start Trinity Term week 2. This week in the archives, researchers for college records and medieval manuscripts, a workshop for students on handling special collections materials safely, and a new chiller pump for the repository air conditioning system. April statistics coming soon…

TT3! This week in the archives: no readers booked (yet), so it’s time to catch up on accessioning, cataloguing, enquiries, termly report for Library Committee, September exhibition text, productions & returns, (re)boxing, antechapel displays, Documents in Focus for the library, manuscript photography… funny, I don’t think I’ll fit in that thumb-twiddling session after all!
Trinity Term Week 4: this week in the archives, researchers for college records and Jowett Papers; several visitors, and Material Evidence in Incunabula group cataloguing continues. April’s brief report is up on the blog and I’m continuing several of the things I started last week.
Trinity Term week 5: this week in the archives, again quiet on the researcher front, which is good as there’s been a spate of internal admin enquiries. A long-running printer ink saga is over, so there’s a new display in the antechapel. Approaching both the end of the month and termly Library Committee, so collating and writing of stats and reports on the menu this week as well.

Reminder of Unlocking Archives talk: this Wednesday (24th) at 1pm, Nikki Tomkins of the Oxford Conservation Consortium will speak about her work for Balliol this past year, repairing early printed books as part of the Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch cataloguing and conservation project. A preview is available via her blog posts:https://balliollibrary.wordpress.com/tag/nikki-tomkins/
Trinity Term week 6: a ‘quiet’ week in the archives, which means getting lots of work done! Congratulations to Balliol M1 and M4, who both got blades in last week’s Eights – apparently M1’s first non-Headship blades ever. If the previous sentence is in Martian for you, now you know why 10 years ago I got in a boat and rowed with Balliol’s second women’s boat for a year. Or rather, mostly went to the gym and the tank, because the river levels were horrendous, but the sun did come out for us during Eights week. Have a look at https://twitter.com/balliolrowing/with_replies Never row 😉
TT7. This week in the archives: a 4 day week for me. More unglamorous but essential behind the scenes maintenance tasks this week while the researcher schedule remains quiet. Enquiries, however, are far from quiet – May stats will be appearing on the blog this week. On Friday I’m looking forward to working with a school group, looking at manuscript books, letters and other items written in different languages and scripts.
TT8, the last week of the academic year, at least for most undergraduates: this week in the archives, the postponed Library Committee meeting, a visit from a local history society, and an archivists’ meeting about the Archives Hub, which we are on:
https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb3107-balliolarchive A new antechapel display will go up in Broad Street this week and the promised May stats will be on the blog along with a summary of last week’s school visit and activity.
TT9: some students are still sitting exams, but for most the strife is over for better or worse, the weather is beautiful, and the rolling green hills of the Long Vac are appearing on the horizon. ‘Vacation’ in the archives, of course, generally means lots of visiting researchers! None this week, though, so catching up continues, focusing particularly on describing and adding new accessions into their permanent series and editing of small collection descriptions for uploading to the website and – pending new Editor login details – to the Archives Hub. Expecting enquiry #400 of 2017 any day.

monthly report May 2017

A few numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during May:

  • Number of enquiries: 60 (again)
  • Running total for 2017: 358
  • Number of researchers in person (unique users): 5
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 7
  • Collections consulted: oriental mss, medieval mss, Jowett papers
  • No of non-research visitors: ca 20
  • Interesting events & activities: Anna & Gabrielle present hands-on special collections handling training workshop for Balliol English & History students; Unlocking Archives talk by Nikki Tomkins (OCC) on conserving Nicholas Crouch books for Wellcome project

Some of the external (non-college) enquiry topics received in May:

  • Request to visit the church & information re memorials
  • C15 members of College
  • C17 members of New Inn Hall, later absorbed by Balliol
  • C19-20 pre-admission student orientation/training/preparation
  • Balliol heraldry
  • Balliol’s role in the early development of the WEA and Continuing Education in Oxford
  • Local and church history: St Lawrence Jewry, London
  • Balliol during and following WW1
  • JRR Tolkien material at Balliol
  • Biographical research on
    • diarist & writer John Evelyn (Balliol 1637)
    • physician and diplomat Sir John Finch (Balliol 1642)
    • scholar and educator John White (Balliol Hilary Term 1858)
    • college historian Frances de Paravicini, wife of Francis de Paravicini (Fellow of Balliol 1862)
    • AL Smith (Balliol 1869)
    • Shyamji Krishna Varma (also Krishnavarma, Balliol HT 1879)
    • politician, countryman, and author Edward Grey, Viscount Grey of Fallodon (Balliol 1880)
    • historian and Fellow of Balliol Francis Urquhart (Balliol 1890)
    • RW Fletcher (Balliol 1910)
    • WW1 poet Stephen Hewett (Balliol 1911)
    • writer Aldous Huxley (Balliol 1913)
    • solicitor JS Hickey (Balliol 1914)
    • barrister LM Caulfeild-Stoker (Balliol 1930)
    • first president of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama (Balliol 1945)

‘My dear Margaret’ – letters from Benjamin Jowett


Three letters from Benjamin Jowett to Margot Asquith

Balliol College wishes to thank Sir Adam Ridley (Balliol 1961) for the recent gift of three fascinating letters from Benjamin Jowett to Margot Tennant, later Asquith, from a family collection. They are now part of Balliol’s extensive Jowett archive.

Sir Adam writes of their provenance: ‘[The letters] come from a scrap book started by Margot in 1890, into which she stuck letters or other fragments and souvenirs from people of interest and distinction. These include Gladstone, Tennyson, Balfour, Milner, Harcourt, Lord Salisbury, Hicks Beach, Sir John Fisher, Woodrow Wilson…  After Margot’s death the scrapbook appears to have gone to her step-daughter, Lady Violet  Bonham-Carter (m Maurice Bonham-Carter, Balliol 1899); and thence to Lady Violet’s sons, Mark (Balliol 1940) and Raymond, in whose custody it remains.’

Only of the three carries a full date: 29 November 1892. Another is dated 8 October, and from internal evidence mentioning the recent death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate (6 October 1892), we can gather that it was also written in 1892. The other is undated, but from the subjects mentioned we may guess that it also dates from the autumn of 1892.

At this point Margot Tennant is 28, a brilliant (bordering on notorious) intellectual socialite at the centre of the ‘Souls’, and still a year and a half away from her eventual marriage to HH Asquith – a Balliol man from the early years of Jowett’s Mastership, and later the first Balliolensis to become Prime Minister. Benjamin Jowett, by contrast, is 75, at the end of an impressive academic and administrative career, in declining physical strength and intellectual power, and with just a year to live. However, he is still writing his own letters, and his interest in young people’s progress and the current issues of the day is as keen as ever. The contrast in their outlooks on life, and particularly his concern for her social and intellectual wellbeing, are marked in these letters, as in others published in her autobiography and his Life and Letters. Footnotes on all the people and events mentioned would occupy more space than the letters, but particularly noteworthy are Jowett’s remarks on the death and legacy of Tennyson, current politicians including Gladstone and Balfour, and political issues from Bimetallism to Fabianism, by way of disestablishmentarianism.

Sir Adam notes, ‘One interesting theme in Jowett’s letters is how keen he was to persuade her to write. Her diaries were remarkable, whether for their frankness, indiscretion, or shafts of insight expressed in uninhibited, mordant or witty language.’

How did these two very different people strike up such a long lasting, wide-ranging and evidently affectionate correspondence? Certainly Margot’s own social circle included many of Jowett’s former students, but according to her autobiography, she literally fell at his feet one day in 1887 or -8, when they were both visiting Gosford House in East Lothian, seat of the Earls of Wemyss and March. She writes, ‘When I met the Master in 1887, I was young and he was old; but, whether from insolence or insight,       >>>

I never felt this difference… Jowett was younger than half the young people I know now and we understood each other perfectly.’ In fact they must have met earlier, as the first of BJ’s letters to Margot published in Abbott & Campbell’s Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett is dated August 1886. More research remains for future biographers…

– Anna Sander


An archivist’s note about transcriptions

Jowett’s letters are always an exercise in palaeography – although he has a highly characteristic ductus (the distinctive and easily recognisable ‘look’ of his handwriting), many particular letter forms and some recurring abbreviations, he is not entirely consistent and does sometimes simply fail to include letters, particularly at the ends of words.

When creating a word-for-word transcript, we first number the pages and lines of text per page. Writing the first draft of a transcript to fill such a form line by line should prevent missing out or repeating words or lines, will make it practical to skip difficult passages for now and concentrate on the ones that can be completed quickly, and will facilitate proof-reading and correction later. Sometimes when we ‘have our eye in’ we can easily read several lines at a time; but then there will be a word or two that seem entirely illegible. On a first pass, we may leave a blank with the right number of letters – or at least relative length. Often context will help, but not always. After exhausting context clues, we compare the form of each letter, or clusters of letters, to similar ones above and below. We may have to make a list of possibilities for each letter or cluster and try the combinations. Thanks to email and digital photography, the college archivists, all of whom work alone, can easily share the last difficult bits of a transcription to discuss with each other. This is immensely helpful to all of us and usually results in a solution. Have a look at the enlarged facsimiles provided and see how your reading compares, and what you can make of the remaining blanks!

Transcription conventions vary and should be adapted for consistency and clarity. If I see that Jowett has in fact written ‘vey diffent’ and there are simply no marks on the page representing the rest of the letters he doubtless would have used to spell ‘very different’, should I: 1) create a ‘diplomatic edition’ reproducing only the letters that actually appear, ‘vey diffent’; 2) indicate the missing letters in square brackets despite Jowett’s lack of abbreviation marks, ‘ve[r]y diff[er]ent’ ; or 3) exercise editorial control and silently correct to what was probably meant, ‘very different’? What the writer ‘meant to say’ is rarely so clear as in this example, and the transcriber’s solution will not be the same for all situations.

Letter A – 8 October 1892

p.1 line 1                       Ball. Coll.

  1. Oct 8 [1892]
  2. My dear Margaret
  3. I send back the first volume
  4. of Plato which has been delayed
  5. because I wanted to send with it
  6. a printed list of extracts for Plato
  7. for general readers. The list has
  8. not yet been completed + revised
  9. (though it is nothing only a few
  10. pages) – you shall have a copy
  11. when it comes from the printers. It is
  12. not published, but only an invitation
  13. to a few friends to have a taste
  14. of the good things which he provides.
  15. So we have lost Tennyson – and
  16. this age of literature closes in
  17. darkness. I was with him about a

p.2 line 1. fortnight ago. He was suffering a good

  1. deal from neuralgia, but we none of
  2. us supposed that the end was so near.
  3. He took leave of me very affectionately as
  4. ‘his old friend’: I have known him I
  5. think about 35 years and during that
  6. time must have visited him more
  7. than 50 times. I shall be delighted
  8. to talk to you about him when we
  9. meet. Read the ‘in memoriam’ again, +
  10. let us think sometimes of friends who
  11. are gone. Of whom we both of us have
  12. many who are near + dear to us.
  13. Are you struggling to write, and
  14. what progress do you make and what
  15. subject or subjects have you in mind?
  16. I would not advise you to attempt a
  17. big book at first, but rather try
  18. the strength of your wings in a series
  19. of tales like the scenes in Clerical life.
  20. You have never sent me the journal of
  21. which you have written. Do not lose

p.3 line 1. the opportunity of gathering together every scrap

  1. about Gladstone. It will be very interesting
  2. twenty years hence – The insights which reporters
  3. for newspapers are able to give is very different
  4. from that which an observing person who has
  5. seen a man nearer has of him.
  6. I am always pleased to hear from
  7. you if you have time to write to me +
  8. + to tell me your ideas about things. I
  9. have been hearing a good deal about the
  10. working man lately. He seems to be rather
  11. a terrible personage and a considerable
  12. political power. If he goes on at the rate
  13. which he has been doing during the last
  14. five years he will swallow us all up,
  15. or at least a considerable part of us:
  16. he will expand the union, disestablish
  17. the church, make the poor much richer
  18. than they are and the rich much poorer,
  19. alas! and will give every body a good
  20. deal of what properly belongs to others.
  21. Meanwhile it is not quite certain how far
  22. he will hold together, or whether the
  23. rich above him + the poor who are below
  24. him + for whom he does not greatly care

p.4 line 1. may not be too much for him. I am told

  1. that the most remarkable of the working men
  2. are Tom Man[n] John Barnes Ben Tillett
  3. (who has a voice that can speak to ten thousand
  4. men). There are also Hyndman who is a Stock
  5. broker and ?Champion formerly an officer in the
  6. guards. – these are the leaders – a little shilling
  7. book called Fabian Essays is worth reading
  8. as showing the ideas which are floating in
  9. the air – the politics of the future –
  10. and are at least as important as the ideas of
  11. Church Congresses.
  12. I am afraid that young ladies are
  13. getting rather naughty in these latter days.
  14. Did you read what Lady Frederick Cavendish
  15. said about them at the Church Congress?
  16. My secretary is waiting for me to
  17. begin + I must not detain him any
  18. longer. And so my dear Margaret
  19. thank you much for your kindness +
  20. affection to me. I remain
  21. Ever yours
  22. B. Jowett

Letter B – undated

p.1. line 1.                    Headington

  1. nr Oxford
  2. My dear Margaret
  3. It was very pleasant to
  4. me to get your note this
  5. morning at this place where I
  6. am staying about 2 miles from
  7. Oxford looking down upon its spires.
  8. Mr Abbott has lent me his
  9. house + I am here with Fletcher who
  10. you may remember, who is a very
  11. good companion + grows surprisingly
  12. in ability
  13. I am greatly touched by your
  14. affection for me. Nevertheless
  15. to use a phrase of Dr Johnson’s
  16. “I should become a very complete
  17. rascal”, if I believed all the kind

p.2 line 1. things which you say of me. But I

  1. quite agree that the two last Oxford
  2. parties were very pleasant, but that
  3. was due to the guests + to one of
  4. them in particular.
  5. I am glad that you keep friends
  6. with Mr Balfour. His friendship is
  7. a real honour, enough to turn any
  8. young lady’s head. I have always been
  9. of opinion that there may be friendship
  10. of a noble sort between men + women
  11. provided that, if possible, they are
  12. formed without consideration of marriage
  13. + there is no weakness or self indulgence
  14. in them; + that they are such that
  15. the world (for we must take some
  16. cognizance of the world) respects them.
  17. It requires a strong head + a great
  18. deal of self-control to carry them
  19. out. But I am not certain whether
  20. these exceptional qualities are to be
  21. found in youth.

p.3 line 1. Now about writing: I shall be delighted

  1. to help you, if you think that I
  2. can. I should like [you] to keep some record
  3. of what such men as Mr Balfour
  4. or Mr Gladstone or Lord Rosebery
  5. say – (not of course to be seen by any
  6. one but yourself.) To do this you
  7. must get to understand the politics
  8. of the day – Greville’s Memoirs are
  9. a good model for this, because
  10. he gives the gradual growth of his
  11. judgment from day to day, which he
  12. often alters as he knows more of persons.
  13. The Court is worth studying too as
  14. well as Politics if there is the
  15. opportunity of doing so. In England
  16. it is very powerful and hardly at all
  17. shorn of its greatness. Then as
  18. to writing stories I should read over
  19. Scenes in Clerical life, + some of
  20. Mrs Gaskell’s stories like Cranford +
  21. read also the Vicar of Wakefield
  22. + Miss Austen + see whether it is
  23. anything of this sort which you

p.4 line 1. are disposed to write; if possible ‘tap’ a

  1. new subject + tell people what they
  2.           all know but have never seen in a
  3. book: your tales should be unlike
  4. a French Novel or an American
  5. novel for different reasons. Read
  6. ‘with avidity’ all the best biographers
  7. which you can lay hold of – there
  8. is no better preparation for writing
  9. fiction – and write a book which will
  10. do some good in this sceptical +
  11. sensual age which will restore men
  12. to their better selves + give them
  13. confidence in goodness + respect for truth
  14. of all kinds – But I only wish to suggest
  15. possibilities to you + not to set[17]you a task.
  16. Will you send me + allow me to read
  17. some part of your Diary from time to time
  18. You have never explained to me the
  19. meaning of ‘Souls’- A lady tells me that they
  20. are a religious order of which you are the
  21. foundress. But I suppose that this is a free
  22. –mason’s secret. They are said to be the
  23. descendants of ‘Montagu’. I remain
  24. My dear Margaret
  25. Ever yours affectionately B Jowett

Letter C – 29 November 1892

p.1 line 1.            Balliol College

  1. Nov 29, 1892
  2. My dear Margaret,
  3. It gives me great
  4. pleasure to hear that the Bazaar
  5. has be[e]n such a success. I
  6. suppose that you cheated a good deal
  7. but then
  8. the pleasure ____ is quite as great
  9. of being cheated as to cheat.
  10. and then as famous authors tell us
  11. the end always justifies the means
  12. – I shall value your portrait
  13. I intend to hang it up in the small
  14. gallery of distinguished friends. I like
  15. Mrs Grenfell very much, but I do
  16. not believe that she is better than
  17. you, and I have not known her
  18. half as long : ( We are quite old

p.2  line 1. friends by this time; and I always wonder

  1. that you don’t get tired of me. You
  2. who are a bright young lady of fashion
  3. and I who am going the way down-
  4. –ward in life and am not far from
  5. the end.
  6. You are right in saying that I
  7. like you best when you are serious. I
  8. doubt whether you have yet quite discovered
  9. the way of mixing life in its true
  10. proportions. Do you sometimes feel yourself
  11. fired with the desire of living for others
  12. _ ____ far above fashion + splendor
  13. + great houses. Let us give to God
  14. our youth if possible – If I were the
  15. confessor of any one I would say to them
  16. Do all the good you can among the rich
  17. first, and afterwards among the poor; use
  18. all the faculties of your mind + all your
  19. experience of the world in the effort; I

[p.1 crossed lines – end of letter]

  1. Will you send me anything that you can possibly scrape together in
  2. recollection about Lord Tennyson? Hallam has asked me to send him
  3. something. (Private). Ever yours affectionately
  4. B Jowett

p.3 line 1. do ___ ?be found out.

  1. I know Dr Caird + his wife a
  2. little + his brother Edward Caird the
  3. Professor very well – The latter is one of
  4. my oldest friends + pupils – They are
  5. excellent men + have greater influence in
  6. Scotland than perhaps any two other men.
  7. Dr Caird is an admirable preacher –
  8. but I suspect that he has a little impaired
  9. his preaching of philosophy for which he is
  10. not equally suited
  11. You asked whether I thought that
  12. the Church should be disestablished. I
  13. rather find myself going in that direction.
  14. But disestablishment ought to be accompanied
  15. by disendowment, with a _____ clause for
  16. vested interests. It is a very difficult subject
  17. + the change except in Wales + perhaps
  18. in Scotland is not likely to be carried
  19. out in the next twenty years. The
  20. English Church has so little regard for

[crossed lines]

  1. Do you ever read Plato: I send you two copies
  2. of a list of passages for general readers. Put them
  3. into your copy.

p.4 line 1. truth – that is my quarrel with it, ____

  1. it has also so much to do with preferment
  2. ‘getting on’ that it is ?more unlike perhaps
  3.        the ^ ____ ____ religious body to the ideal society
  1. on the other hand I am sensible of the
  2. desirableness of having a gentleman in
  3. every parish: that has a great deal to do
  4. with the well being of English society
  5. and yet the ‘gentleman’ not having a wife
  6. + family is too apt to turn into a mere
  7. priest
  8. I am afraid that our friend Mr Balfour
  9. is getting rather into a scrape about
  10. Bimetallism. Do you take any interest in that
  11. question? Ask Sir C Tennant about it.
  12. Gladstone calls it rubbish – To me it
  13. appears to be chiefly a scheme for making
  14. ‘money cheap’ a thing which I abhor –
  15. I observed that in his speech Mr Balfour
  16. said nothing about the original proportion which
  17. gold + silver were to bear to each other at
  18. the first start off – that appears to be
  19. the most important point of all.

[see crossed lines at end of p.1 for end of letter]

Transcript of a letter from Margot Tennant to Benjamin Jowett, also produced for the exhibition. In this case the transcription is written out in ordinary lines without numbers, to make it more natural to read; however, the page divisions are reflected by paragraph sections.

Balliol College, Jowett Papers IIC.1.11

The Glen, Innerleithen, NB

Oc. 26. [18]91

Dearest Mr Jowett

It is too nice of you to bother to write to me when you must have such a lot of things to do + think about + when you are so gravely ill.

I am glad you do not think me frivolous. I do not ask any one to know how much I try to be good + intelligent to fill my life with energy + interests. I shall never never

forget all you have done for me. I am always writing either in books or people + altho’ I do not jump into print I daresay in time I may. You won’t forget to give me your Plato will you. Do not think me selfish

+ write please my name or yours or something in it. Any of your books or sermons I should value beyond all words just to have by my bedside + always to feel you leave some touch of your self and your work near to help me.

Ever your own true loving Margot


Unlocking Archives TT17

Wednesday 24 May (5th), 1-2pm at St Cross: Nikki Tomkins, OCC conservator, will give an illustrated talk in the Unlocking Archives series about her work for Balliol this past year, repairing early printed books as part of the Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch cataloguing and conservation project. A preview is available via her blog posts:

More about the Wellcome Trust – funded Crouch project:

All welcome! These talks are open to the public. Feel free to bring your lunch. There will be time for questions and discussion after the talk, and an opportunity to take a closer look at some of the Balliol special collections material discussed.

Unlocking Archives, now in its 5th year, is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar series of illustrated lunchtime talks about current research in Balliol College’s historic collections: archives, manuscripts and early printed books, and the connections between them.

Talks take place at 1pm in Balliol’s Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell. St Cross is next door to Holywell Manor and across the road from the English & Law faculties on Manor Road; see ‘Finding Us’.

Questions? anna.sander [at] balliol.ox.ac.uk.


handling special collections

Recently the Assistant Librarian and I gave a workshop for Balliol English and History students who are starting to think about planning for their dissertations, and how to include original source materials. My section covered 1) preparing to visit archives and 2) handling special collections materials. The topic of locating/identifying archive and manuscript material is (and indeed has been) a topic for a whole separate presentation; this presentation follows directly on from that topic.


  • archives are (usually) old and/or fragile
  • physical formats and condition can vary widely
  • handling should not cause (further) damage

Most of the material you will be looking at will be showing signs of age and perhaps wear – even if it’s not centuries old, it may have been badly stored, exposed to damp or heat, insects and other pests; it may be made of poor quality materials that deteriorate rapidly, and so on. The researcher’s main concern is how not to cause any further damage to the material while consulting it.

Once you start using archives, most things you look at will be between A5 and A3 size,on paper or parchment, and in flat/single-sheet or codex formats; but you may also encounter paper or parchment rolls, old photographs including glass plate negatives, archival bundles, folded items, fascicule volumes, textiles, biological specimens, artefacts, flat and 3-dimensional artworks, modern physical audio-visual and machine-readable formats – and tiny or huge variants of all these formats. They all require careful handling, but in different ways,


Of  course you are hoping to make original discoveries, but you want the surprises to be academic rather than practical. Time in the archives is always limited and never seems to be enough, so it needs to be used as efficiently as possible. Once relevant materials are identified, assemble as many of your academic tools as possible before tackling the archive material:

  • know secondary literature
  • know editions/translations/summaries/abstracts
  • request/consult catalogues/descriptions in advance
  • take copies with you for note taking
  • acquire necessary practical skills
  • request/consult digital images
  • ask for advice

Editions, especially diplomatic ones, can require almost as much knowledge of e.g. transcription conventions, abbreviations, language skills etc, as the original. What practical skills will you need to understand your sources?

  • languages of record, critical apparatus and secondary literature
  • palaeography and diplomatic – handwriting and formal structures
  • abbreviations, layout and formats, specialist vocabulary or technical terms for e.g. accounts, legal documents, weights and measures, forms of money
  • how to make codicological descriptions

Digital images may answer many of your preliminary questions, and in some ways they may be more convenient (reduced need to travel, ease of magnification etc) but they cannot replace the original. If you do need to see the original as well, digital images will be useful preparation, so always use them if available.

This is a complex field and every case is individual. Finding and using archive and manuscript material isn’t as straightforward as using modern (or even early) printed works. Ask for advice, from your friendly college archivist and special collections librarian, from your tutor, from the staff at the repositories you’ll be visiting, or preferably from all of us. Often there isn’t a single correct answer.

Planning a research trip

  • make preliminary contact with archivist well in advance
  • make & keep appointment
  • spec coll regulations are different, even if you are using the same reading room as circulating/non spec coll materials users
  • will vary between institutions and materials used
  • remember material is *unique*

Most archives should be able to provide you with procedural guidance, searchroom regulations, handling guidelines and a reprographics policy in advance of your visit – but you have to ask. Check their website first!

also ask in advance about:

  • physical condition of material you want to see
  • permissions, procedures, fees for taking photographs/ordering copies

In the archives: basic dos and don’ts


  • use pencil only
  • wash hands before each handling session
  • use appropriate supports as advised by staff
  • consult one box or file at a time
  • call staff attention to damage
  • ask for help with moving or using materials


  • bring coats, umbrellas, bags, laptop cases etc into the search room
  • use pens or rubbers/erasers
  • bring food, drink, gum/sweets, including water
  • mark documents in any way
  • touch text, decoration or damaged areas of the page
  • take photos without asking first

In the archives – productions & returns

  • fill in the forms
  • open boxes/files at ground level & on a table
  • watch for weight & shifting contents inside boxes
  • carry boxes horizontal
  • keep material 100% on the table, not hanging over the side
  • keep your notes etc separate from archives!
  • ask for help/instruction when needed

At your desk

  • have as little open as possible at a time
  • keep file contents in order
  • CARE: not all will be numbered…
  • look out for & report damaged or undocumented material
  • look out for loose/smaller items in a file
  • turn pages carefully

When photographing special collections material

  • ask in advance & don’t assume permission
  • check about approved use of images
  • be extra careful of support & handling during photography
  • make sure you can identify materials in your photos afterwards!

White gloves

  • regulations vary, check in advance
  • gloves aren’t magic!
  • take extra care when wearing gloves
  • place material flat if possible
  • hold rigid items by the edges
  • do not touch text, illumination or damaged surfaces

That’s a brief introduction to preparing for a research trip to an archive; next, hands-on contact with original records…

– Anna Sander 2017

monthly report April 2017

A few numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during April:

  • Number of enquiries: 60
  • Running total for 2017: 298
  • Number of researchers in person (unique users): 4
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 7
  • Collections consulted: oriental MSS (2), western medieval mss, college records
  • No of non-research visitors: 55+
  • Interesting events & activities: temporary Prof Les Woods memorial exhibition open, and taken down; Anna & Gabrielle present hands-on special collections handling training workshop for Balliol English & History students; Anna with colleagues staffing college archivists table at undergraduate History Thesis Fair.

Some of the external (non-college) enquiry topics received in April:

  • Medieval Oxford – Colleges and Halls
  • Balliol’s foundation
  • Connection between Roger Bacon and Balliol
  • Connection of John de Balliol, King of Scots, with the Founders and the College
  • C17 membership and residence
  • John Evelyn’s diaries
  • Women in 18th century land transaction/ownership documents
  • Connection between Jane Austen’s family and Balliol
  • WW1 officer cadets at Balliol
  • Early Chinese students at Balliol
  • ‘unbuilt Balliol’
  • The St Cross building project
  • College Chapel registers of baptisms
  • The Balliol Barge
  • Records of student work and surviving examples
  • Biographical research on
    • Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead (Balliol 1873)
    • Wallace Le Patourel (Balliol 1886)
    • Charles Percy Hill (Balliol 1896)
    • Arthur High Sidgwick (Balliol 1901)
    • Hardit Singh Malik (Balliol 1912)
    • Alan Wallace (Balliol 1912)
    • Selkirk Chapman (Balliol 1919)
    • David Moffat Johnson (Balliol 1923)
    • Hugh Stretton (Balliol 1947)
    • Derek Parfit (Balliol 1961)
    • C20 College staff (College Servants in historical records)
  • information about and/or copies from
    • Mallet Papers
    • Arnold Family papers
    • Monckton papers
    • David Urquhart papers
    • AW Leeper papers
    • medieval manuscripts