Friday, August 12, 2011

Christ Church College, Oxford University

Oxford University is made of of several different colleges. Having seen the central library for the university, we walked just down the lane to Christ Church College. As with the Bodleian, much of the architecture of the college has been used in films, specifically the Harry Potter Series. The grand staircase and the great hall have both been used along with the grounds outside and some of the cloisters.

Christ Church was the home of two great fantastical English authors; JRR Tolkien and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. It is said that Alice Liddell played in the private garden of the head librarian. In the great hall, amongst the many panes of stained glass there are characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  including the Queen, the White Rabbit, and Alice herself.

The library at Christ Church was opened in 1772. Materials are organized by collection, or rather the former owner of a collection. The librarian argues that keeping these collections together as they were collected by individuals provides us with valuable information regarding not just the collections people owned but how they built their collections. There are many annotations from the owners in these books as well as the occasional letter from the author to the collector.

The library has 100,000 early printed books. Cataloging efforts for these collections has been underway for 13 years. No small feat. Many of the books descriptions are acquired through antiquarian MARC records. As of now about 2/3 of the early printed books are in the online catalog.

The Ornery Collection is a collection of early printed science books including works by Galileo. This collection also came with a number of scientific instruments and objects which were lent to the Science Museum in the 19th century. There is a collection of around 700 manuscripts including a roman manuscript from 500 AD and the earliest known manuscript in England, the Sermons of Augustus from 1163.

The library has the third largest collection of manuscript scores behind the British Library and the Bodleian including Jacobean and Tudor scores. Plaster ornamentation in the walls of the library reflect the content of the collections including a musical motif which features a number of musical instruments.
There are also some royal collections including illuminated manuscripts from Elizabeth I and a treatise on how to be King which belonged to Edward III. One unique object is Thomas Wolsey's Cardinal Hat. On special exhibition was a collection of original manuscripts by Lewis Carroll and translations of his works in many different languages.

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.

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