19th- and 20th-century gifts

Beyond the Work of One

19th & 20th century gifts: treasures entrusted for preservation

In the last two centuries, benefactors have given their college libraries volumes prized for their beauty, rarity, or connection with the foundation. Some were contemporary works with fine illustrations or printing, others earlier illuminated manuscripts, and others older printed books. Such gifts testify to libraries as places to which valuable works can be safely entrusted, and where they will be preserved for, shown to, and appreciated by future generations.


30. A Persian manuscript, c. 1700
All Souls College, MS 289
Gift of Reginald Heber (1783–1826)
The note on this manuscript of Firdawsî’s Shâhnâmah (‘Book of Kings’) reads: ‘This copy of the Shah Nameh of Firdusi was given by his highness the Maharajah, Sya-Jee, Gui-cowan, rajah of Baroda and Cattywar ... to Reginald Calcutta, March 24, 1825’. It is from a major collection of Persian manuscripts given in 1826 by Reginald Heber, hymn-writer and missionary, Fellow of All Souls 1804–8, and Bishop of Calcutta 1823–26.



Gifts from women to a women’s college (items 31 – 34)


31. William Morris, The well at the world’s end (Printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press, 2nd day of March 1896)Lady Margaret Hall, Briggs Rm 133.4 7,8
Lady Margaret Hall, Briggs Rm 823.95 4
Gift of Jane Morris (1839–1914)
One of three Kelmscott Press books given to Lady Margaret Hall by William Morris’s widow Jane in 1897.


32. Jean Bodin, La démonomanie des sorciers, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1598)


33. Jakob Sprenger, Malleus maleficarum, vol. 1 (Frankfurt, 1588)
Lady Margaret Hall, Briggs Rm 133.4 7 and 8
Bequest of Katherine Briggs (1898–1980)
Katherine Briggs was an undergraduate at LMH 1918–22 and an expert on folklore. The collection she left to her college contains predominately 17th-century books, including works relating to the English Civil War, religious writings, literature, travel, and topography.


34. Joseph Glanvill, Saducismus triumphatus: or, Full and plain evidence Glanvill, Saducismus triumphatus (Lady Margaret Hall)concerning witches and apparitions, 3rd ed. (London, 1689)
Lady Margaret Hall, Briggs Rm 133.4 5
Bequest of Cynthia Borough (1899–1974)
Cynthia Borough, undergraduate at Lady Margaret Hall 1919–22 and a librarian at the Bodleian, left her book collection, including children’s books, antiquarian and private press books, to LMH.


35. An illuminated German devotional manuscript
Keble College, MS 35
Bequest of Charles Edward Brooke (1847–1911)
Prayers or meditations in Franconian dialect, relating to illustrations from the life of Christ, late 15th–early 16th century. Canon Charles Edward Brooke inherited the collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books of his brother, the great bibliophile Sir Thomas Brooke (1830–1908). Canon Brooke was a theological student at Cuddesdon when Edward King, the Principal, preached his sermon on benefactions to college libraries (see board at exit).


36. Campion’s Aristotle
Campion Hall
Gift of Merton College
A commentary on Aristotle’s Physics (Venice, 1488), annotated by Edmund Campion SJ (1540–81); owned when Campion was a Fellow of St John’s, 1557–69. He left England in 1569, was reconciled with the Catholic Church 1571, entered the Society of Jesus, was ordained and formed part of the first Jesuit mission to England in 1580. He was apprehended and executed in 1581. The book was given to Campion Hall in 1936, on the opening of its new Lutyens building, by Merton College.


37. Illustrations by Edward LearBrasenose College, Sigma.BB.2.4
Brasenose College, S.BB.2.4
Gift of George Hornby (1789–1872)
These lithographs of drawings by Edward Lear illustrate John Edward Gray, Gleanings from the Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall (Liverpool, 1846), which was commissioned by Knowsley Hall’s owner, the natural historian Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby. The book was presented to Brasenose in 1847 by the Rev. George Hornby (undergraduate 1808, Fellow 1815–72). Hornby never married, and was devoted to his college; his gifts included books, college prizes, plate, paintings and money towards building restoration.


38. Fore-edge paintings
Trinity College, Danson CollectionTrinity College, Danson Collection, 'Tower of London'
Bequest of John Raymond Danson (1893–1976)
These books are from the bequest of several thousand volumes, including colour-plate books, illuminated manuscripts, early printed books, and illustrated modern first editions, left by John Raymond Danson, a major benefactor who read law at Trinity from 1912, and who inherited and improved the large collection built up by his father and grandfather. Fore-edge paintings disappear from view when the book is closed.Trinity College, Danson Collection, 'Village Scene'

‘The Tower of London’, on Sir James Bland Burges, Richard the First, a poem in eighteen books (London, 1801).
‘Village scene’, on William Cowper, Poems (London, 1820).

19th- and 20th-century gifts: contemporary works

By the 19th century, authors’ working manuscripts had come to be valued as evidence of the creative process, rather than being discarded after printing. Poets, writers, and composers kept their papers and gave them to college libraries to be preserved and studied.


39. Amelia B. Edwards, ‘Great rock-cut temple, Aboo Simbel’ (watercolour), 1873/4
Somerville College, ABE.wc.100
Bequest of Amelia B. Edwards (1831–92)
Amelia Edwards, novelist and travel writer, devoted her life to Egyptology and helped found the Egypt Exploration Society, through which she met Somerville’s first two Principals. She left her library to Somerville, in the words of the college Report for 1907, ‘anxious to bequeath a possession so precious to her … to a College which should give to the women of a later generation much that she was able to attain only with great difficulty and much that never came within her reach’. Edwards executed upwards of seventy drawings on the spot in Egypt, from which the illustrations to her book A Thousand Miles up the Nile (London, 1877) were engraved.


40. Edward Lear to Amelia B. Edwards, 18 October 1885
Somerville College, ABE 102
Bequest of Amelia B. Edwards
Lear writes to Edwards concerning his own Nile Diaries, which he planned, but failed, to publish.


41. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dublin Notebook, 1884–5 Campion Hall, G.Ia
Campion Hall, G.Ia
This notebook containing jottings connected with examination marking, and other writings, was found among Hopkins’s papers in the Dublin Jesuit House where he died. Hopkins (1844–89) read ‘Greats’ at Balliol 1863–7; was received into the Catholic Church in 1866; entered the Society of Jesus; and became Professor of Greek literature, University College Dublin, 1884. There he wrote the ‘terrible sonnets’, including ‘Spelt from Sybil’s Leaves’, expressing the desolation he felt at the time.


42. Elizabeth Maconchy, Concertino for clarinet and string orchestra (1945)
St Hilda’s College, Maconchy Collection
Gift of Elizabeth Maconchy (1907–94)
Elizabeth Maconchy DBE, Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s 1978, was among the foremost composers of her generation; President of the Society for the Promotion of New Music; and the first woman to chair the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain. She gave her printed and manuscript scores, sketches, press cuttings, programmes and corre-spondence to St Hilda’s. This autograph score in ink with pencil notes is dedicated to the clarinettist Frederick (‘Jack’) Thurston, who gave its first performance at the Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Copenhagen in 1947. In 1992 it was recorded by his widow, the clarinettist Thea King, DBE (1925–2007).


43. Thea King to Elizabeth Maconchy, 20 August 1992
St Hilda’s College
King announces the prospective recording and remembers helping with rehearsals for the first performance.

44. Thea King’s recording of the Concertino, 1992 (re-issued 2001)
St Hilda’s College
Thea King’s recording of Maconchy’s Concertino on the Helios label (Hyperion Records).


45. Robert Browning, ‘Fifine at the Fair’ (published 1872)
Balliol College, MS 387
From the estate of Robert Browning (1812–89)
This autograph poetry manuscript, used as printer’s copy, was presented to Balliol after the poet’s death, with other manuscripts of his later poems, in accordance with his wishes. Browning, a friend of Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol, became first Honorary Fellow of Balliol in 1867. Browning’s objective in ‘Fifine’ was ‘to show merely how a Don Juan might justify himself, partly by truth, somewhat by sophistry’.



19th- and 20th-century gifts: historical records


College libraries and archives were now seen as places where contemporary material of historical significance could be preserved. The papers of important political figures were donated, and individuals gave items recording events in which they had taken part.

Oxford Union Society,
46. The ‘King and Country’ debate in the Oxford Union, 1933 
Oxford Union Society
Deposited on permanent loan by Michael Barsley (1913-93)
On Thursday 9 February 1933 the Oxford Union debated ‘That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’. The pages from the Union’s minute book recording the debate were torn out and burned by a group of undergraduates led by Randolph Churchill. Michael Barsley, a Keble undergraduate, attended the debate and created this scrapbook of cuttings relating to it; he presented the scrapbook on permanent loan to the Oxford Union Society. Barsley edited the student newspaper Cherwell, became a broadcaster and writer, and produced the BBC’s Panorama.


47. ‘House and Home’ memo Nuffield College, Cherwell Papers G.193
Nuffield College, Cherwell Papers G.193
Deposit by Sir Donald MacDougall (1912-2004)
Memo dated 30 March 1942 from Frederick Lindemann, Viscount Cherwell (1886–1957), to the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, promoting carpet bombing of German cities in an attempt to hasten the end of the war. This policy, controversial at the time, was later judged not to have achieved its aim. Lord Cherwell, Professor of Experimental Philosophy (Physics) at Oxford, remained Churchill’s trusted personal scientific adviser throughout the war. His papers were deposited in Nuffield by his assistant, the economist Sir Donald MacDougall, Fellow 1950–64.

Records of early 20th-century student life


Personal records of student life in Oxford began to be given to colleges by students, or by relatives after their death. Colleges were now seen as having an interest in the lives of their individual members, while up at Oxford and afterwards.

48. Album of caricatures of Mansfield dons by W. H. Coats
Gift of David Stevens
Copied by Coats from the originals, which were drawn upon scraps of sermon paper and the like. The album was passed down to David Stevens by his father Alan W Stevens, who trained for the ministry at Mansfield (1904–7).


E. Wilson Rix bequest

Mansfield College
E. Wilson Rix (1881–1958) studied theology 1904–7 at Mansfield, then a college for training Nonconformist ministers. The caricatures of students and dons by his contemporary W. H. Coats show their light-hearted enjoyment of their time in Oxford. Rix was ordained minister and served as YMCA chaplain with the British Expeditionary Force in Egypt. He survived, and held various pastorates including seventeen years at Ealing Green. He bequeathed his library and papers to Mansfield.

Mansfield College, Album of caricatures by W.H. Coats
49. Caricature of Principal Fairbairn and Mansfield dons by W H Coats 
Gift of John Marsh
The caricatures include Professor Alexander Souter. The donor was the Rev. Dr John Marsh, Mansfield 1928–31, Principal 1953–70.


50. Notes to Rix from his tutor and Principal
Rix Bequest
From Professor Alexander Souter (1873–1949), Professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Mansfield.


51. Caricature of Rix by W. H. Coats
Rix Bequest


52. Rix to his wife, 21 November 1915
Rix Bequest
Autograph letter on YMCA paper, written when Rix was on active service in Egypt. Of some 15,000 Oxford men who served in the war, roughly one in five died, a higher proportion than for the British or the allied forces as a whole.


Life in a women’s college


The first women’s colleges, Lady Margaret Hall and Somerville, opened in 1879, followed by St Hugh’s in 1886 and St Hilda’s in 1893. Women were not admitted to membership of the University until 1920, although they had been allowed to sit some University examinations and attend lectures for over forty years.

53. Dorothy Hammonds’s journal
St Hugh’s College St. Hugh's College, Dorothy Hammonds' Journal
Gift of Paul Whalley (godson of Dorothy Hammonds)
Dorothy Hammonds, CBE (1885–1974) read English at St Hugh’s 1904–7. She became a Chief Inspector of Schools and a Vice-President of the Girls’ Public Day School Trust. The illustrated diary she wrote with her friend Margaret Karrawara Mowll, who had attended Clapham High School GPDST with her, gives a vivid and humorous picture of life as a female student in Oxford at that time. It is open at an entry for November 1905.


54. Dorothy Hammonds playing tennis
St Hugh’s College
Pastel, probably a self-portrait, initialled D.M.H. Dorothy represented St. Hugh’s in numerous tennis matches.


55. Jacob de Cessolis, Liber de ludo scaccorum
Magdalen College, MS. Lat. 12
Gift of William Waynflete
Although most of the books Waynflete sent to Magdalen had been collected from other donors, this one almost certainly came from his personal collection. It is a treatise on the game of chess, originally written in 1280. Wayneflete’s copy was made in Cambridge in 1456 by William Alward (1432–1503), who later became Magdalen’s Proctor General for legal matters.

This exhibition celebrates over 700 years of gift-giving to Oxford college libraries. The chronological arrangement (by date of donation) illustrates how patterns of giving developed. Now and in the future, colleges will continue to depend on benefactions, and their libraries will cherish their treasures and preserve them for study and the delight of readers.
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