– 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.

Posts tagged “images

guest post


Oxford, Balliol College, MS 200 p.1

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

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

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

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

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

– Mary Maschio (Queen’s College)

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

antechapel display – Remembrance Sunday

Following college and public interest in a recent display board put up there for a visit by the GM Hopkins Society earlier this year, a new regular series of small displays has begun this term in the antechapel – by the door – in Balliol Chapel. The first was mounted to support or illustrate the Remembrance Sunday sermon in Chapel, which will be appearing in a College publication soon – link from here when it’s available.

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Photographs (L-R, top to bottom):

1.’Practising trench making at Cumnor. No 1 section A Company Officer Cadet Battalion, Oxford; nearly all Australians, at “work” on our part of the line.’ Photos by JH Brian Armstrong.  Balliol Archives ref. Accn 05/187. view album online

2. Summer 1915: Neville Talbot and Stephen Hewett on the Master’s Field; St Cross church and Manor Road houses in the background. Balliol Archives ref: FFU 7.26I.

Neville Stuart Talbot, MC, Fellow of Balliol 1909-1920, served as Chaplain to the Forces from August 1914. He was mentioned in dispatches from France twice and awarded the Military Cross in 1916. He was a co-founder of the TOC-H movement and later became Bishop of Pretoria.

Stephen Henry Philip Hewett, Balliol 1911, was a brilliant Classical Scholar and Exhibitioner. He swept the Craven, Hertford and Ireland Scholarships, and in addition to his academic achievements, played hockey for the University and the College XIs, played in the College Cricket XI, acted in OUDS and sang in the Bach Choir. He became a 2nd Lieutenant in the 11th Royal Warwickshire Regiment in January 1015 and went to France in February 1916. He fought in the Battle of the Somme and was reported missing and killed near High Wood on 22 July 1016, aged 23. His volume of poems and A Scholar’s Letters from the Front were both published later that year, edited by his family and his Balliol tutor, FF Urquhart, who took this photo while Talbot and Hewett were in Oxford on leave.

3. Balliol 2nd Torpid (spring rowing races) 1909. Back row: (3) SN Ziman (5) ENA Finlay (4) F von Bethmann Hollweg (Bow) Patrick Shaw-Stewart (2) CE Payne. Middle row: (7) Marquis of Tavistock (Stroke) MT Waterhouse (6) G Rufus Isaacs. In front, Cox, WB Menzies. More details of all in the College RegisterBalliol Archives ref PHOT 31.33.

4. ‘Company of the 7th Battalion, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, in College for 10 days (270 men) – coming in to Lunch in Balliol Hall’. Photo by FF Urquhart.  Balliol Archives ref. FFU7.20C

5. Photograph of Adam von Trott zu Solz, ca 1931. Balliol Archives ref Dossier Adam von Trott.

6. Harold Macmillan in uniform. Balliol Archives ref FFU 7.24A

7. Julian Grenfell (Capt Hon Julian Henry Francis Grenfell, DSO), Balliol 1906, wounded 13 May 1915 newar Ypres, died at Boulogne 26 May 1915) and Patrick Houston Shaw-Stewart (Balliol 1906, Fellow of All Souls 1910, Gallipoli, Legion of Honour, Croix de Guerre; killed 30 December 1917. Balliol Archives ref PHOT 19.31.

8. Balliol 3rd Torpid 1938. Back row: (Bow) CJ Horne (5) Y Takagi (2) RM Hare (4) JB Ashley (3) RL Whitehead. Middle row: (7) JL Broderick (Stroke) EC Crosfield (6) HWE Randolph. In front, Cox RO Miles. Balliol Archives ref PHOT 39.15.

exhibition archive – Ernest Walker letter

Part of this exhibition was originally a Document of the Week in Michaelmas Term 2005. It features two letters from Dr Ernest Walker to Cedric Glover, written from Oxford in August 1916 and demonstrating something of the strange contrasts of Oxford life during wartime.



August 11, 1916

My Dear Cedric,

Very glad indeed to have news of you: I was wondering whereabouts you were. Where is Ronald? [?Knox] Greetings to him, and also best remembrances to your father and mother, please!

Balliol is a queer place nowadays: I don’t suppose we shall have 20 people up next term. We went on with the regular concerts (fortnightly) up till the end of the summer term 1915, doing our Strauss and Reger and Kreisler and our songs in German as usual up to the end: but we then suspended operations, inevitably. For the last year we have been having “by and fors” (in the wide sense of the word, including any military birds of passage that could do things – some of them quite good), with the same quality of music as usual, but no printed programmes [p.2] of any kind and no audience except masculines. We got a quite fair lot of people always: though I don’t mean to say that some of them mayn’t have found it slightly strong meat when an old Magdalen man, quartered in Oxford, gave them a dozen or so of the biggest Hugo Wolf songs on end, or when I played Reger after the news of his death reached here. I daresay we may be able to go on with something of the same kind next term – there has been a steady flow of officer-cadets into Oxford, hundreds of them. But I really haven’t a notion about the future, in any way at all. The OUMC and the OUMO have formally [p.3] amalgamated (with the Holywell Room): I expect the MO would certainly have been bankrupt in isolation, and the MC would have been in a queer way: as it is, the joint society is financially very shaky indeed for the time being, but I dare say we shall keep it going more or less. The Ladies Society goes ahead as usual, except there they refuse  to engage Herschel or the Aranyis or apparently anyone whose great-great-great-grandparents were Germans. Miss Marga Deneke is on the concert committee, and has had a good many of her plans squashed in absurd fashion. It’s a queer world, and during the last two years, some individuals in it have [p.4] turned out even queerer than one could have expected.

 You seem to have been managing to get a lot of music added to your collection, anyhow. Don’t know of any translations of Pohl or Thayer, myself. Can’t stand the Debussy ‘cello sonata, except for very little bits of it: the man seems to have written himself out. Grovlez sent me his last piano things, and I was very much disappointed with them – just the ordinary fashionable Parisianism, I thought: nor do I care for his violin sonata, which I ran through with Miss Gates (I think) not long ago. Don’t know the last Scriabin, nor the Tcherepnine quartet: but I came across some very fine songs of T. lately. Well, I suppose some day or other we may get music normally again!

I heard from Oboussier the other day: he asked after all his friends and I gave him what news I could.

I should be delighted to hear from you again! All best from

Yours [ver]y sincerely,

Ernest Walker.

[top of p.1] (In Merionethshire for the moment, but back in Oxford next week.)

[Editor’s note: Thanks to Kamile Vaupsaite for deciphering the names of Thayer and Grovlez!]


22 August 1916

28, St Margaret’s Road, Oxford

My Dear Cedric,

Many thanks for your note; I am quite reassured. The matter had various ramifications into which I needn’t go: as you no doubt understand that in this very queer world it is important that the whole of the Ladies’ Club’s various oddities should be kept altogether dark, for the sake of the Arányis (who don’t know anything of them), and Miss Deneke and everybody else!

I quite forgot, by-the-bye, when sending on the message to his friends from Oboussier, the Swiss fiddler who was at Worcester for the year before the war, that a relative veteran of 1913 like you might never have met him! I lose count of dates so easily as a permanent limpet here.


I must look up Mr. Jarnach. When this whole bad dream is over and we have more music together, I must show you some things of a wild young Anglo-French creature, a Home Student at Cherwell Edge, who is working with me. She is liable to come the most ultra-modernist croppers any minute, and I doubt if her songs can be sung in tune: but she produced a few weeks ago a [B flat?] Prelude that seems to be really beautiful in its way, and quite unlike anything I know.

I am at present engaged in some music for a children’s play by Mrs. Balfour (Harold Joachim’s sister). It is all about vegetables, and one has to represent musically the essential characteristics of carrots and cabbages and so on: I am rather pleased with a very first-impressionistic but quite unmistakable Cauliflower that I have just evolved: it starts – [MS music]

All very best wishes, and looking forward to any amount more of music together!

Yours very sincerely,

Ernest Walker.

Ernest Walker (1870-1949) , musicologist, composer, organist and Hon Fellow of Balliol

The Balliol Music Society’s 1745th Sunday Concert on Oct 16 2005 (Sunday 2nd week) was the annual Ernest Walker Concert, commemorating Dr Walker’s contribution to College life, and in particular College music, during his long career at Balliol 1887-1925.

Ernest Walker came up to Balliol in 1887 to study Litterae Humaniores (Classics) under WR Hardie and RL Nettleship. He received his BA in 1891, became assistant organist to John Farmer at Balliol and earned a BMus (1893) and DMus (1898). He became organist and director of music at Balliol upon Farmer’s retirement in 1901; although he gave up the post of organist in 1913 on religious grounds, he retained the directorship until his retirement in 1925. Under his direction, the Sunday Concerts developed to a very high standard.

In addition to his involvement in College music, he was instrumental in the University’s musical life as a busy teacher and examiner; he held the posts of Choragus of the University 1918-1922 and Lecturer for the University Professor of Music from 1899.

Dr Walker was well-known in the musical world beyond Oxford as a prolific and insightful critic, reviewer and musicologist. His voluminous correspondence portrays a thoughtful and self-effacing character possessed of a whimsical sense of humour and a great deal of affection and regard for his many friends and colleagues – not to mention decided musical opinions!

Ladies’ Club: the Oxford Ladies’ Musical Society, founded in 1898 because the university musical society did not admit women, and still in existence – though now co-ed – as the Oxford Chamber Music Society. Papers of the OLMS are in the Bodleian.

Sources :

  • Balliol College, MSS Ernest Walker and accrual Accn 05/139, letters to Cedric Glover
  • Bodleian Library, music MSS
  • Bailey, C. ‘ Walker, Ernest (1870-1949)’, rev. Jeremy Dibble, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36688, accessed 26 Sept 2005]
  • Balliol College Register (1933, 1950)
  • Deneke, M. Ernest Walker (1951)
  • Hull , R. ‘Ernest Walker’, Music Review, 10 (1949), 205–6

medieval manuscripts links

Mostly but not all illuminated manuscripts images links, from the no longer functioning and soon to be defunct Medieval Manuscripts Appreciation Society on facebook. Bah to the obsolescence of ‘old groups’ – they worked fine for us users, but didn’t serve the corporate purposes of facebok very well. Some of these are from other members of the group, whom I’ve anonymised as ‘contributor’.

Royal Library of the Netherlands: http://www.kb.nl/menu/webexposities.html
– the Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts databank is brilliant, but don’t miss the other medieval web exhibitions.

British Library: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/ttp/ttpbooks.html
– the Sforza Hours, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Sherborne Missal, the Luttrell Psalter…

Also the BL’s Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/welcome.htm

National Library of Wales Digital Mirror: http://www.llgc.org.uk/index.php?id=122  Archives section, Manuscripts section

Early Manuscripts at Oxford University: http://image.ox.ac.uk/

Bodleian Western Manuscripts: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/medieval/browse.htm

National Library of Scotland: http://www.nls.uk/digitallibrary/index.html
-Murthly Hours, Auchinleck MS, early printed books and more…

European Libraries Portal (formerly GABRIEL): http://www.theeuropeanlibrary.org/exhibition/treasures/index.html and many other exhibitions

Royal Library, Copenhagen – Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts: http://www.kb.dk/da/nb/materialer/haandskrifter/HA/e-mss/mdr.html

National Library of Norway: http://www.nb.no/opplevelser/tidligere_nettutstillinger
– Norwegian only, but see the AMAZING Schøyensamlingen (now on an independent website, and I wish the nb.no would provide a link from their site) which is in English; also some of the monthly features.

Illuminated Manuscripts in French Libraries http://www.manuscritsenlumines.fr/
Three large online databases of iconography index and describe the illuminated manuscripts preserved in the public libraries of France (Enluminure: municipal libraries, Liber Floridus: libraries of institutions of higher education, Mandragore: National Library of France). There is a good search facility which includes an iconographic search; apparatus and search terms are in French only, but each search field includes an index of terms to browse.

Manuscripts of the West Midlands  www.mwm.bham.ac.uk

The Centre for Håndskriftstudier i Danmark: http://www.chd.dk/ English language site, brilliant source for technical information on the contents of Books of Hours for professionals and gifted amateurs.

The Hypertext Book of Hours: http://medievalist.net/hourstxt/home.htm Simple, easy-to follow Book of Hours in English and Latin

Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University and Minnesota , which has the world’s largest depository of renaissance and medieval manuscripts on microfilm. http://www.hmml.org

Cambridge Illuminations http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/exhibitions/cambridge_illuminations/medieval.htmhttp://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/cambridgeilluminations/

Cologne library http://www.ceec.uni-koeln.de/ contributor notes ‘For anyone who researches the 12th century, the Cologne library offers manuscripts containing fairly early versions of the Glossa ordinaria to many biblical books.’

St Gall library http://www.cesg.unifr.ch/en/

Medieval Imaginations: Literature and Visual Culture in the Middle Ages .“’Medieval Imaginations’ provides a database of images to enable you to explore the interface between the literature and visual culture of medieval England. It has been compiled to provide images corresponding to the main episodes dramatized in the English Mystery Plays, because these present the medieval view of human history from the Creation to the Last Judgement. These biblical stories, and images related to them, would have been instantly recognisable to a medieval audience.” http://med-imag.english.cam.ac.uk/

Illuminierte Handschriften aus Österreich (ca. 780 – ca. 1250)http://homepage.univie.ac.at/Martina.Pippal/hssdata.htm

Internetquellen zu Handschriften http://www.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/webmania/lhsn.html

Manuscripta Medievalia http://www.manuscripta-mediaevalia.de/

Beinecke rare Book & MS Library at Yale http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/

The Medieval Scriptorium http://www.medievalscript.com/

Contributor notes: ‘Aberdeen University Library’s Special Collections has some beautiful manuscripts – the Burnet Psalter and the Aberdeen Bestiary are just two examples. ‘http://www.abdn.ac.uk/historic/Online_collect.shtml

contributor notes: ‘Glasgow University Library\’s Special Collections has some great online exhibitions, including the most recent \’World of Chaucer\’ exhibition’: http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/index.html’ and the newer site at http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/specialcollections/virtualexhibitions/

The first stage of a major cooperation between Stanford University and the parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, is now online at http://parkerweb.stanford.edu/ You need to log in via ?institutional only? subscription to see much.

contributor notes: For those interested in Greek manuscripts, there is a site by the monastery of Simonopetra (Mt Athos) with photos and catalogue of its mss and archive.

Contributor notes: ‘If you wanted to look at some select Irish manuscripts see, ‘Irish Script on Screen’ on http://www.isos.dias.ie/ if you register you get to look at even better quality images .’

Contributor notes: ‘for MSS that are potentially useful rather than aesthetic: http://aalt.law.uh.edu/ , http://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/

Digital Scriptorum: http://www.scriptorium.columbia.edu/

Contributor notes: ‘The good folks at [the Societa Internazionale di Studi Francescani at] Assisi have put high-res colour images of all their mediaeval manuscripts online at: Unfortunately, you can’t download them or zoom in, but you can adjust your browser to show pages at a higher magnification.’ Don’t be put off by the horrible URL – it’s right!

Contributor notes: ‘the Beinecke Library at Yale has a great digital images database:
http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/. Use the Finding Aid to get MS Numbers first though: http://webtext.library.yale.edu/finddocs/fadsear.htm

Morgan Library’s digital collection: http://utu.morganlibrary.org/

DIAMM (Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music): http://www.diamm.ac.uk/index.html

Contributor notes: ‘For digital surrogates of entire medieval manuscripts, which you can page through and download onto your desktop, try: http://issuu.com/groups/medievalmanuscripts The Walters Art Museum is publishing all its illuminated manuscripts as surrogates under a Creative Commons copyright. If you know of any manuscripts that you can upload, you could add them to Issuu, and to this communal site.’

Manuscripta Mediaevalia (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich): http://www.bsb-muenchen.de/Manuscripta-Mediaevalia.176+M57d0acf4f16.0.html or http://www.manuscripta-mediaevalia.de

Bangor Pontifical – http://www.bangor.ac.uk/archives/bangorpontifical.php.en (Welsh and English)