– 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.

Latest

Medieval Manuscripts: Michaelmas 2017 Exhibition further reading

tiny sample of sources from a vast field in print and online, examples mostly in English and within the UK. Fortunately in a blog post I am not as limited as in print, and can add as many as I like, so do share your favourites.

Balliol’s Medieval Manuscripts Online

Medieval Manuscripts  – Introduction

Palaeography and  Diplomatic  – reading  old handwriting and understanding  old documents (medieval & early modern)

Preservation and Conservation

Old Manuscripts, New Science

Online research collections and exhibitions

Medieval Manuscripts Blogs – Curators & Researchers

Printed  Sources – Introduction to Medieval Manuscripts & Book History

  • Christopher de Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (1994)
  • Jane Roberts, Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings Up to 1500 (2005)
  • Raymond Clemens & Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (2007)
  • Ralph Hanna, Introducing English Medieval Book History: Manuscripts, Their Producers and Their Readers (2014)
  • Alexandra Gillespie & Daniel Wakelin, eds. The Production of Books in England 1350-1500 (2014)

UK Academic & Professional Organisations

Oxford seminars & events

If you use social media, #medievaltwitter  is a lively and useful place to find all kinds of news and discussion of professional and academic issues for and by medievalists, including many of the scholars and institutions listed above. Try hashtags #manuscriptmonday #mondaymonsters #fragmentfriday #flyleaffriday

#mss2017 is open!

This year 308 people visited St Cross Church for Oxford Open Doors, 9-10 September 12-4pm both days. Here’s what they saw… and what you can see too, by making an appointment to visit between now and mid-December.

Watch this space for more public exhibition 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!

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Many thanks to our Oxford Preservation Trust volunteers on both days – they staffed the front desk throughout, welcoming visitors and freeing staff to circulate and answer questions about the building, the conversion project, and the exhibition.

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20+ medieval manuscripts on show, and all these people are doing the puzzle… it’s a good one, based on one of the manuscript images. Come and try it!

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Start here – in fact the 1588 charter with the curtain is mounted permanently and isn’t part of the current exhibition, but it does fit nicely with its neighbour…

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Case 1. College Archives D.4.1 Statutes of Dervorguilla. 1282, in Latin, on parchment. First Statutes of Balliol College, with seal of Dervorguilla de Balliol, Lady of Galloway, co-founder with her husband John de Balliol (d.1269) of the College.  Shown in new mount and box, with enlarged images of both sides of Dervorguilla’s personal seal.

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Case 2. College Archives Membership 1.1. First Latin Register of College Meeting Minutes 1514-1682, in Latin and English, on paper. Earliest surviving records of Balliol College’s Governing Body. Open at entries for the early 1560s, mostly concerning elections of Fellows at this stage rather than a full range of College business. Shown with images of damage and historic repairs to the last page of the volume, and illuminated medieval liturgical music manuscript reused (upside down) as binding waste.

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Case 3.

L: MS 349. 15th century collection of nine texts related to the office of priesthood, in Latin, on parchment. Bequeathed to Balliol by Dr George Coningesby in 1768. Closed to show the only medieval binding in Balliol’s manuscript collection. Displayed with images of the text inside.

R: MS 350. 12th, 13th & 14th centuries, 3 medieval treatises on English law, including Herefordshire section of Domesday. Victorian vellum binding, in Latin and Anglo-Norman French, on parchment. Bequeathed to Balliol by Dr George Coningesby.

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Case 4. MS 263 14th-15th century copy of texts on poetic and rhetorical composition, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Provenance unknown. Displayed upside down to show extensive water damage and loss to upper outer corners of the first 100 folios. Currently in unusable condition.

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Case 5. MS 238E ca.1445. 5th volume of medieval encyclopedia, Fons Memorabilium Universi, compiled by Dominicus Bandini de Arecio, in Latin, on parchment. Conserved and rebound ?early 2000s. Copy commissioned and given to Balliol by William Gray, student at Balliol ca.1430 and later Bishop of Ely (d.1478).

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Case 6.  MS 148 2nd half 13th century. ‘Bernardi opuscula’, collection of short texts by 12th century Cistercian theologian and reformer Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478).

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Case 7. MS 253 13th century. ‘Logica vetus’ and other texts by Aristotle, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Provenance unknown; late medieval Balliol ownership inscription.

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Case 8. MS 12. Ca. 1475. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae (History of the Jewish People), in Latin, on parchment. Printed at Lübeck by Lukas Brandis, ca. 1475. Rebound several times, conserved 2010-11. Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478). Not a manuscript! But hand finished and decorated throughout, and mistaken for a manuscript by more than one early cataloguer. It also has a shelfmark as an early printed book, Arch.C.1.6.

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And now to the chancel step for a case dedicated to the special issues of using and looking after tiny books…

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Case 9.

L: MS 367. 11th century Antidotarium – medical recipes and remedies, in Latin, on parchment. Victorian binding. Probably given to the College by Sir John Conroy, 1st Bt, Fellow of Balliol 1890.

R: MS 348. 13th century Vulgate Bible, in Latin, on very thin parchment. ‘Pocket Bible.’ Rebound 1720s. In Balliol by the 17th century; provenance unknown.

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Case 9. cont.

L: MS 451. 1480s. Book of Hours (Use of Rome), perhaps from Ghent or Bruges, in Latin on parchment. Early 19th century binding by by C. Kalthoeber of London. Given to Balliol by the Rev. EF Synge.

R: MS 378 Undated. Prayers to the Virgin Mary, in Ethiopic (Ge’ez), on parchment. Original wooden boards without cover. From the personal library of the Rev. Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol 1870-1893, other provenance unknown. This is not western or (as far as we know) medieva, but it’s Balliol’s smallest manuscript codex, and a link to the non-western manuscripts in the collection, most of which are as yet much under-studied.

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Case 10. MS 396 Early 14th century. Five leaves of a noted Sarum Breviary, one of the liturgical books used for the Daily Office, in Latin, on parchment. These leaves were found in and removed from the binding of an ‘old dilapidated’ College account book in 1898, by George Parker of the Bodleian Library.

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And back to the nave for a case full of medieval title deeds…

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Case 11. College Archives E.1. 1320s-1350s. Title deeds relating to property and an advowson at Long Benton (Much/Mickle Benton) near Newcastle, given to Balliol College by Sir Philip Somerville in 1340, in Latin, on parchment, with seals.

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Case 12. MS 116, later 13th century. Commentary by Eustratius, an early 12th century bishop of Niceaea, on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. At Balliol by the late 14th century; provenance unknown.

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Case 13. MS 277, late 13th century. Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Meteorology, trans. Moerbeke, and Ethics, trans. Grosseteste, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. May have been at Balliol in the 14th century, alienated and returned in the 15th; given by Mr Robert Rok (Rook).

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Case 14. MS 384 15th century.  English Book of Hours according to the Use of Sarum, in Latin, on parchment. 18th century binding. At Balliol since the 18th century; provenance unknown.

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Case 15. MS 210 1st half 13th century. Several texts by C12-13 University theologians, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Given to the College by Roger Whelpdale, sometime Fellow of Balliol and Bishop of Carlisle in 1419-20 (d. 1423).

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Case 16. MS 173A 12th and 13th century. Two collections of short texts bound together, on medieval music theory, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s.  Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478).

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Case 17.  College Archives B.22.1, the oldest document in Balliol College’s archives, is an undated charter of ca. 1200, recording a grant of the Church of St. Lawrence-Jewry, London, with rents etc., from Robert, Abbot of St. Sauve, Montreuil, to John de St. Lawrence, with others.

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Case 18. MS 354 Early 16th century. Commonplace book of London grocer Richard Hill, in English, Latin and French, on paper. Medieval song or carol texts, literary extracts, poems, religious and spiritual texts, notes on farming and trade, recipes, proverbs, etc. Original limp parchment cover.  Provenance unknown.

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Case 19. MS 240 12th and 14th centuries. Miscellany of religious texts, in Latin, on parchment.  Conserved and rebound by Andrew Honey, 1990s. From the priory of Monks Kirby (Warwickshire). Given to the College by Richard Bole, Archdeacon of Ely (d.1477).

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In addition to a wealth of original manuscripts exhibited, there are also several forms of supplementary material – here, a display on loan from OCC with more details about their work for the colleges’ collections – and Balliol items used for three of the four illustrations: B.22.1 above, MS 12 above, and Robert Browning’s DCL gown (awarded 1882). On the right visitors can touch and feel samples of just a few of the materials they use for repairs, e.g. papers and tissue, fabric and thread, parchment and leather.

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At levels both lower and higher than the exhibition cases are more images from Balliol’s manuscript, for sheer enjoyment. Above, a much enlarged opening of MS 451, the 15th century Book of Hours; below, two  miniatures from MS 383, a much-studied high-status 15th century copy of Ovid’s Heroides ina French verse translation.ood17-32ood17-33ood17-34

The corridors around the sides of the church not only provide access to wall memorials and stained glass but also offer an unusual insight – windows into the climate-controlled repositories where the archives, manuscripts, and early printed books are stored.

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With several hundred visitors in a few hours, there is always a queue for the loo during Open Doors – but even here one can enjoy more details of illuminated initials from Balliol manuscripts.

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Some of the more than 300 Open Doors 2017 visitors enjoying the building, the manuscripts and a challenging custom jigsaw, based on an image from one of the manuscripts on display.

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

monthly report August 2017

A few numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during August:

Some of the enquiry topics received in August:

  • advice re archives access arrangements
  • advice re archives training/careers
  • advice re records management
  • requests for (new) digital images of medieval manuscripts
  • student protests in the 1960s
  • historic maps, plans and views of Balliol
  • C19 letters from India
  • Balliol JCR Presidents
  • pronunciation of Jowett
  • Biographical research re / info on Balliol or related archives of
    • John Wycliffe (Fellow and Master C14)
    • David Urquhart (1855-1928)
    • Thomas Hill Green (Balliol HT 1855) and Charlotte Byron Symonds Green
    • C19-early C20 Thai (Siamese) students at Balliol
    • HD Rawnsley (Balliol 1870)
    • William Henry ‘Billy’ Grenfell (Balliol 1874)
    • Owen Morgan Edwards (Balliol 1884)
    • Lawrence Evelyn-Jones (Balliol 1904)
    • JD Champneys (Balliol 1908)
    • Vivian Hunter Galbraith (Balliol 1910)
    • James Saumarez Mann (Balliol 1912)
    • Prof Leslie Lipson (Balliol 1931)
    • Adam von Trott zu Solz (Balliol 1931)
    • AF Giles (Balliol 1936)
    • Thomas Balogh (Fellow of Balliol 1940)

 

 

 

medieval manuscripts exhibition #mss2017

Change and Decay: a history of damage and conservation in Balliol’s medieval manuscripts

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Balliol College Historic Collections Centre

St Cross Church, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UH

directions

A new exhibition of medieval manuscripts will be in place for Oxford Open Doors (9-10 September 2017) and throughout Michaelmas Term (until 10 December).

Opening hours: Saturday 9 September and Sunday 10 September 12-4 pm both days for Oxford Open Doors, Saturday 16 September 2.30-6.30 pm for Balliol Society and Oxford Alumni Weekend, and tba. Individuals and groups are also welcome to visit at other times by appointment with the archivist – contact

Visiting hours are normally Mon-Fri 10-1 and 2-5; appointments aren’t meant to be exclusive, it’s just that the exhibition and reading room are in the same space and we need to plan ahead to ensure that visitors and researchers are here at different times.

Further information and related events will be advertised here.

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The exhibition, curated by Balliol’s Archivist and Curator of Manuscripts, Anna Sander, includes more than 20 of Balliol’s 300+ original medieval manuscript codices and a number of contemporary documents from the college records, and highlights a decade of work on the archives and manuscripts by the team of professional conservators at the Oxford Conservation Consortium, of which Balliol has been a member since 2006.

Curator’s introduction

Balliol’s 2014 condition survey of all manuscript books

PDF of exhibition catalogue

List of manuscripts on display

– with links to exhibition catalogue entries, more images and articles on related topics. Catalogue entries may not be identical in the blog posts and the print-ready PDF – the latter has been formatted to fit each manuscript’s entry on 2 sides of A4, i.e. a single opening, but there is no such restriction on blog post length.

Case 1. College Archives D.4.1 Statutes of Dervorguilla. 1282, in Latin, on parchment. First Statutes of Balliol College, with seal of Dervorguilla de Balliol. [exhibition entry] [related documents]

Case 2. College Archives Membership 1.1. First Latin Register of College Meeting Minutes 1514-1682, in Latin and English, on paper. Earliest surviving records of Balliol College’s Governing Body. [exhibition entry] [images online]

Case 3a. MS 349 15th century. Collection of nine texts related to the office of priesthood, in Latin, on parchment. Bequeathed to Balliol by Dr George Coningesby in 1768. Closed to show the only medieval binding in Balliol’s manuscript collection. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 3b. MS 350 12th, 13th & 14th centuries, 3 medieval treatises on English law, including Herefordshire section of Domesday. Victorian vellum binding, in Latin and Anglo-Norman French, on parchment. Bequeathed to Balliol by Dr George Coningesby. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 4. MS 263 14th-15th century. Texts on poetic and rhetorical composition, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 5. MS 238E ca.1445. 5th volume of medieval encyclopedia, Fons Memorabilium Universi, compiled by Dominicus Bandini de Arecio, in Latin, on parchment. Conserved and rebound ?early 2000s. Copy commissioned and given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d.1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 6. MS 148 2nd half 13th century. ‘Bernardi opuscula’, collection of short texts by 12th century Cistercian theologian and reformer Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 7. MS 253 13th century. ‘Logica vetus’ and other texts by Aristotle, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Provenance unknown; late medieval Balliol ownership inscription. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 8. MS 12., aka Arch C 1 6.  Ca. 1475. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae (History of the Jewish People), in Latin, on parchment. Printed at Lübeck by Lukas Brandis, ca. 1475. Rebacked/rebound several times, conserved 2010-11. Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [ISTC entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 9a. MS 367 11th century. Antidotarium – medical recipes and remedies, in Latin, on parchment. Victorian binding. Probably given to the College by Sir John Conroy, 1st Bt, Fellow of Balliol 1890. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 9b. MS 348 13th century. Vulgate Bible, in Latin, on very thin parchment. ‘Pocket Bible.’ Rebound 1720s.In Balliol by the 17th century; provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 9c. MS 451. 1480s. Book of Hours (Use of Rome), perhaps from Ghent or Bruges, in Latin on parchment. Early 19th century binding by by C. Kalthoeber of London. Given to Balliol by the Rev. EF Synge. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 9d. MS 378 Undated. Prayers to the Virgin Mary, in Ethiopic, on parchment. Original wooden boards without cover. From the personal library of the Rev. Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol 1870-1893, other provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 10. MS 396 Early 14th century. Five leaves of a noted Sarum Breviary, one of the liturgical books used for the Daily Office, in Latin, on parchment. These leaves were found and removed from the binding of an ‘old dilapidated’ College account book in 1898, by George Parker of the Bodleian Library. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [not yet digitized]

Case 11. College Archives E.1. 1320s-1350s. Title deeds relating to property at Long Benton (Much/Mickle Benton) near Newcastle, given to Balliol College by Sir Philip Somerville, in Latin, on parchment, with seals. [exhibition entry] [images online]

Case 12. MS 116 Later 13th century. Commentary by Eustratius, an early 12th century bishop of Niceaea, on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. At Balliol by the late 14th century; provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 13. MS 277 Late 13th century. Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Meteorology, trans. Moerbeke, and Ethics, trans. Grosseteste, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. May have been at Balliol in the 14th century, alienated and returned in the 15th; given by Mr Robert Rok (Rook). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 14. MS 384 15th century.  English Book of Hours according to the Use of Sarum, in Latin, on parchment. 18th century binding. At Balliol since the 18th century; provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 15. MS 210 1st half 13th century. Several texts by C12-13 University theologians, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s. Given to the College by Roger Whelpdale, sometime Fellow of Balliol and Bishop of Carlisle in 1419-20 (d. 1423). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 16. MS 173A 12th and 13th century. Two collections of short texts bound together, on medieval music theory, in Latin, on parchment. Rebound 1720s.  Given to Balliol by William Gray, Bishop of Ely (d. 1478). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 17. College Archives B.22.1. Ca. 1200, charter re St Lawrence Jewry, London. (Jewry?) Parchment, 2  pendent seals. Balliol’s oldest document, predates Balliol’s association with the property. Rehoused by OCC, 2007. [exhibition entry]

Case 18. MS 354 Early 16th century. Commonplace book of London grocer Richard Hill, in English, Latin and French, on paper. Medieval song or carol texts, literary extracts, poems, religious and spiritual texts, notes on farming and trade, recipes, proverbs, etc. Original limp parchment cover.  Provenance unknown. [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Case 19. MS 240 12th and 14th centuries. Miscellany of religious texts, in Latin, on parchment.  Conserved and rebound by Andrew Honey, 1990s. From the priory of Monks Kirby (Warwickshire). Given to the College by Richard Bole, Archdeacon of Ely (d.1477). [exhibition entry] [Mynors catalogue entry] [images online]

Find out more

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monthly report July 2017

A few numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during July:

  • Number of enquiries: 54
  • Running total for 2017: 474
  • Number of researchers in person (unique users): 11
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 16
  • Collections consulted: Monckton Archive (4), Morier Archive, college records, Strachan-Davidson papers, Clough papers, medieval manuscripts, David Urquhart archive
  • No of non-research visitors: ca 50
  • Interesting events & activities: collections talk & display for university staff at the University of Oxford Research and Innovation Support Conference; medieval manuscripts workshop for tutor & students from St Peter’s College Summer School at Magdalen College
  • images created: 4000+

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

  • advice re copyright in unpublished manuscript material
  • advice re archives access arrangements
  • advice re archives training/careers
  • advice re reliable sources to cite re college/university qualifications
  • advice re how to find an Oxford DPhil thesis
  • academic dress at Balliol in the 1920s
  • requests for (new) digital images of medieval manuscripts
  • sketchbooks in archives
  • detailed questions about MSS 383 and 451
  • C19 history of the Urquhart chalet(s)
  • Biographical research re / info on Balliol or related archives of
    • C19-early C20 Thai (Siamese) students at Balliol
    • astronomer James Bradley (Balliol 1711)
    • B Jowett (Balliol 1835)
    • M Arnold (Balliol 1840)
    • GM Hopkins (Balliol HT 1863, see 1862)
    • AL Smith (Balliol 1869)
    • CJG Montefiore (Balliol 1877)
    • SF Boas (Balliol 1881)
    • HS Malik (Balliol 1912)
    • WH Hollins (Balliol 1914, not resident)
    • CMN White (Balliol 1933)
    •  JB Bell (Balliol 1936)
    • HB Burgess (Balliol 1936)
    • JT Adamson (Balliol TT 1937, see 1936)
    • RB Joly (Balliol 1938)
    • GA McCaskie (Balliol 1938)
    • FDK Williams (Balliol 1938)
    • HC Dawkins (Balliol HT 1940 see 1939)
    • MJ Webb (Balliol 1943)
    • Greats results in 1951

As in most months, I have received queries about individuals who are not recorded as members of the college or university – this lack of documentation *usually* and *probably* indicates that they were not at Balliol/Oxford – but not absolutely.