Important purchases of manuscripts and printed books for the Bodleian Library made or assisted by the Friends of the Bodleian in recent years include:

Historic ledgers of Ducker & Son, shoemakers of Turl Street, Oxford, 1910-1963 (MSS. Don. c. 233-243)

Page in Ledger 14The 11 ledgers (MSS. Don. c. 233-243) bound in red leather cover the period from 1910 to 1963 and feature beautiful copperplate writing detailing the names, addresses, and personal styles of thousands of Ducker & Son's customers. Over the years, customers included members of European aristocracy and clergy, several Maharajahs as well as generations of Oxford academics and students. Among 'Duckers' illustrious clients were J.R.R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Basil Blackwell, Captain Pitt-Rivers and many politicians. The ledgers make a valuable addition to the Bodleian collections given their connection with the history of the University and many prominent literary and political figures, whose papers are already held at the Bodleian. The volumes also provide insights into the social and commercial history of the early 20th century.

Page in Ledger 14 (MS. Don. c. 243)

Devotional manuscript linked to the library of the Carthusians in Strasbourg, 15th century (MS. Don. e. 250)

Carthusian bindingPrior to appearing at Christie's auction in May 2016, this manuscript belonged to the formidable French-Alsatian politician Maurice Burrus (1882-1959). The volume's partially erased inscription reveals that it was created in the second half of the 15th century at the medieval Carthusian house in Strasbourg. The contents of the book, written in a mostly informal cursive script, combines para-liturgical exercises with devotional texts centred on the Passion. Such devotional compendia have been little studied and many texts remain unedited; academic interest in them, however, is growing. The manuscript, still in its original binding, promises to make a major contribution to the study of Carthusian book production. It is also hoped that it will elucidate the influence of this semi-eremitical order on forms of spirituality, both lay and religious.

MS. Don. e. 250, binding

Victor Prout, The Thames from Oxford to London in forty photographs, First and Second series. London:Virtue and Co., 1862 (Arch. K b.22)

View of Marlow, Buckinghamshire in Victor Prout's The Thames from Oxford to London in forty photographsThis rare and important early photographic work features the earliest known panoramic views of the city and county of Oxford as seen from the river in the mid-19th century. The album contains 40 loose albumen prints from collodion negatives mounted on card with individual printed titles. Victor Prout (1835-1877) began taking photographs along the Thames in 1857, adapting a punt as both the means of transport and a home for his darkroom. His camera produced wide-vision images probably using a lens that swung round and 'scanned' progressive sections of the picture plane. The resulting images produced 'a delicate, dramatic feeling' (Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, The photobook: a history), showing tranquil scenes with little traffic.

This work sits alongside the Library's other photographic 'incunables', including works from the recently acquired archive of Henry Fox Talbot.

View of Marlow, Buckinghamshire in Victor Prout's The Thames from Oxford to London in forty photographs. London, 1862 (Arch. K b.22, p. 18)

Parry manuscripts

Unpublished piece for string quartet from the Highnam Parry papers, signed and dated at end: Oxford, May 20, 1867Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) is an important figure in the history of English music. He was highly influential on a generation of British musicians and a major force in the so-called 'English Musical Renaissance.' To the general public, he is known as the composer of 'Jerusalem', the hymn-tune 'Repton', and the coronation anthem 'I was glad', but he also wrote much other fine music.

Most of Parry's surviving music manuscripts are divided between the Bodleian, the Royal College of Music, and Eton College. The Bodleian's existing Parry holdings extend to nearly 50 bound volumes of music manuscripts. The Library was fortunate to acquire this collection of early music manuscripts, dating from the composer's student years at Oxford in the 1860s. The manuscripts have remained in the Parry family since they were created and, although most are listed in Professor Jeremy Dibble's major biography of the composer (C. Hubert H. Parry: his life and music. Oxford, 1992), they have been largely inaccessible to scholars.

An unpublished piece for string quartet from the Highnam Parry papers, signed and dated at end: 'Oxford, May 20, 1867' (MS. Mus. b. 401)

Veronica Franco's rare book

Veronica Franco's Lettere familiari a diversi.Veronica Franco was a prominent figure in 16th-century Venice, famed as a writer and courtesan. Her work was included in contemporary anthologies, and volumes of her verse and letters Terze rime and Lettere familiari were published in 1575 and 1580 respectively. The recipients of her letters included Henry III of Valois and Tintoretto, for whom she sat. Montaigne notes that he acquired a copy of the Lettere in Venice in 1580.

The book, a slim volume bound in 19th-/early 20th-century decorated paper over boards, is the only copy recorded in the UK. Franco has been a subject of research for recent Oxford doctoral students, and academic interest in her writing has grown considerably over the last century. We hope that the book itself will tell us more about the publication of Franco's works: Venice has been attributed as the place of the printing, but close examination of watermarks, type, and woodcuts will assist in confirming the location and identifying the printer.

Veronica Franco's Lettere familiari a diversi. Venice, [1580] (Vet. F1 e.366)

Recently discovered Map of Middle-earth

MS. Tolkien Drawings 132Perhaps the finest piece of Tolkien ephemera to emerge in recent decades was a map of Middle-earth drawn by Christopher Tolkien and printed in an early edition of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The map constitutes working material for Pauline Baynes's colour 'Map of Middle Earth', published by Allen & Unwin in 1970. Removed from Baynes's own copy, the map includes copious annotation by J.R.R. Tolkien with additional annotation by Pauline Baynes. Tolkien's annotations show his visual conception of Middle-earth, and for the first time it can be seen how closely Baynes followed his suggestions in her poster design. Perhaps the most startling annotation on the map is Tolkien's note equating key places in Middle-earth with places in the real world. He describes Hobbiton as being on the same latitude as Oxford, and Minas Tirith as being on the same latitude as Ravenna. This was to provide Baynes with an idea of the climate of various places. This information is entirely new and provides fresh insight into Tolkien's conception of Middle-earth.

MS. Tolkien Drawings 132, detail.© Williams College Oxford Programme & the Tolkien Estate Ltd, 2018.

Medingen Psalter

Psalter from Medingen, Germany - with a separate ivory plaque, 15th CenturyThis acquisition of 2015 joins two other examples in the Bodleian of very rare manuscripts from the reformed house of Cistercian nuns in Lower Saxony, an Easter prayer book and a Manual for the Provost. The individual nuns at Medingen appear to have been responsible for the production of their own liturgical manuscripts, from the choice of devotional texts to the pictures, and also to physical and material features such as the silk veils which serve to protect the illuminations. This personal quality gives a rare and fascinating insight into the lives of members of a late medieval female religious community. The manuscript survives in a binding of blind-stamped brown leather over wooden boards which may be original. Attached to the verso of the upper board was once a bone or ivory plaque, also 15th-century but of separate origin, depicting Pontius Pilate washing his hands. Though the manuscript and the plaque had been separated, the Library was exceptionally fortunate in managing to acquire them both.

Psalter from Medingen, Germany with a separate ivory plaque, 15th century (MS. Don. e. 248)

Medieval manuscript of 'The Chastysing of Godde's children'

The Chastising of God's Children, open at the beginning of its chapter listThe important Middle English manuscript that the Library acquired at auction in June 2014 was written in northern England in the mid-15th century. It contains 'The chastysing of Godde's children' and other mystical treatises. The text, composed around 1390 and circulated widely amongst a cosmopolitan readership in the late Middle Ages in England, is an important witness to the growing vernacular appetite for advanced spiritual guidance. It provides unprecedented evidence for the circulation and appropriation of continental, near-contemporary mystical writings in England. It also affords insights into the ongoing popularity of earlier medieval native devotional material.

Eleven manuscripts containing full versions or close derivatives are already known. The emergence of this manuscript is of real significance. Of particular interest is its collocation in this copy with other devotional texts which were known to have appealed to a shared audience of nuns and devout laity. Of the existing versions, five are already in Oxford. Taken together with the Bodleian's world-class manuscript holdings of other Middle English religious texts, this makes Oxford an important centre for study on the texts.

'The Chastising of God's Children', open at the beginning of its chapter list (MS. Don. e. 247, fols. 14v-15r)

Papers containing the pleadings at Rome of several Advocates for King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine concerning their divorce in 1530

Chapter note in the volume containing divorce pleadings of Advocates for King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine in 1530This document appears largely to be a mid-17th century scribal copy of the 427 point legal counsel drawn up by the Italian lawyer Pietro-Paulo Parisio (c. 1473-1545) in support of Henry's divorce from Catherine. Transcribed from the originals in the Vatican, this is Ralph Sheldon's copy with a large armorial bookplate on the front pastedown and arms in gilt on both covers. An autograph summary title in the hand of Anthony Wood appears on the fly-leaf. Other previous owners seem to include William Sheldon and Marmaduke Tunstall.

The content appears to have been printed in Parisio's Consilia (Venice, 1580, reprinted 1593). The additional information consists of two much shorter opinions by other lawyers, Marriano Sozzini the younger and Ludovico Gozadino.

This manuscript complements the significant Sheldon and Wood material in the Bodleian and provides noteworthy evidence of continued interest in the controversy around Henry VIII's divorce more than a century later.

Chapter note in the volume containing divorce pleadings of Advocates for King Henry VII and Queen Catherine in 1530 (MS. Don. c. 207, detail)

Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem 'Binsey Poplars'

Final Page of Gerard Manley Hopkins' autograph of 'Binsey Poplars'In April 2013 the Bodleian acquired at auction a late autograph draft of Hopkins's celebrated poem 'Binsey Poplars'. It was the most significant Hopkins item to have come to the market in over 40 years.

An Oxford alumnus, Gerard Manley Hopkins (18441889) is regarded as one of the Victorian era's greatest poets. 'Binsey Poplars' was written in response to the felling of trees running alongside the River Thames in Binsey, on the west side of Oxford. The trees were replanted after the poem was first published in 1918 in a volume edited by his friend and fellow poet, Robert Bridges.

The only other known manuscripts of 'Binsey Poplars' survive in four copies, all kept in the Bodleian. The new manuscript has never been properly studied and presents in its fascinating variant readings critical evidence of the evolution of one of the most notable poems in the modern English literary tradition.

Final page of Gerard Manley Hopkins's autograph of 'Binsey Poplars' (MS. Eng. c. 8235, fol. 2)

Lewis-Gibson Genizah Collection

Kedushta, a liturgical poem for Shaharit on the Day of Yom Kippur by Joseph Ibn AbiturThe Cairo Genizah collection is one of the greatest finds of late Victorian scholars. The Genizah of the Synagogue of Fustat (Old Cairo) contains discarded pieces of writing, which in many cases are rare and sometimes unique witnesses to texts in a variety of fields, among them biblical fragments. It also contains fragments of liturgy, rabbinic treatises, and personal and commercial documents, giving a rare glimpse of life in the Eastern Mediterranean between the 9th and the 19th centuries.

The scholars Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson acquired these manuscripts in 1896 and gifted them to Westminster College, Cambridge. Their joint acquisition by the Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library constitutes a pioneering event in the history of the two institutions. By combining expertise and resources in conserving, cataloguing, digitizing, and revealing the as yet little-explored contents of the Lewis-Gibson Collection, Oxford and Cambridge will be serving the wider interests of international academia and making this cultural resource available to the public, as well as safeguarding it for future generations.

Ḳedushta, a liturgical poem for Shaḥarit on the Day of Yom Kippur by Joseph Ibn Abitur (Bodleian Libraries/Cambridge University Library, LG Liturgy 3.25)

Personal archive of William Henry Fox Talbot

Two women confiding in the Cloisters at Lacock Abbey, early 1840sTalbot's invention of the negative/positive process laid the foundation for all modern pre-digital photography. In his ground-breaking The pencil of Nature, described by Beaumont Newhall as the 'Gutenberg Bible' of photography, Talbot sets out practical and artistic uses for the new photographic art, including the application of photographic techniques to the printing of images in books. Talbot's innovations in this latter pursuit paved the way for the mass commercial use of printed images.

Talbot's archive contains material relevant to his photographic and photo-mechanical endeavours, as well as personal papers. It comprises diaries, notebooks, common-place books, and correspondence; albums of original family artwork, prints, and botanical specimens; books, pamphlets, broadsides and prints; artefacts relating to his photographic and scientific work, and of course photographs.

Pictured: Two women confiding in the Cloisters at Lacock Abbey, early 1840s (The William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné, Schaaf 2047)

Franz Kafka letters to his sister Ottla

Kafka postcardThe collection of over a hundred letters and postcards written by Franz Kafka to his favourite sister Ottla provide an important insight into the life of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. The letters reveal the dynamics within the Kafka family, the author's not-so-guarded perception of the world, people he encountered, titles he read, his travels, diet, medical condition and sense of humour. It includes visually attractive postcards and Kafka's own drawings. These papers joined a set of other family correspondence, already partially owned by the Library. Together, they form an integral part of a literary archive that miraculously survived against the author's wishes and despite the historical disasters they were threatened by.

The Library purchased the letters in April 2011 jointly with the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbarch. This historic collaboration will extend to a programme of exhibitions, conferences, exchanges of academics and other projects.

Pictured: One of the finest examples of Kafka's drawings, a postcard to Ottla 'Scenes from my life', 1918 (HS.2011.0037.00064 = MS Kafka 49, fol. 79r)

Autograph of Jane Austen's The Watsons

A page from the manuscript of Jane Austen's The WatsonsIn 2011 the Bodleian Library acquired the only known fiction manuscript in Jane Austen's hand that was still in private ownership.

Probably drafted in 1804-05, The Watsons marked a decisive turning point in the kind of fiction Jane Austen was writing - towards a darker and more realistic style of social criticism. Though never completed for publication, material from it was redeployed, notably into Mansfield Park. In aesthetic terms, the manuscript is of immense value: sixty-eight pages of closely written text, filled with deletions and revisions, it represents Austen's first extant draft of a novel in process of development. Not only of interest for it's linguistic text, The Watsons also offers a unique opportunity to study Austen's method of making homemade booklets as her usual writing surface.

Pictured: A page from the manuscript of Jane Austen's The Watsons (MS. Eng. e. 3764)

Sir Philip Sidney Pedigree Roll

Sisney Roll A manuscript pedigree for the poet and courtier Sir Philip Sidney, compiled by Robert Cooke Esquire, Clarenceux King of Arms in about 1580.

The roll depicts the lineage of one of the most influential literary figures of the Elizabethan age. It was probably commissioned by Sir Henry Sidney, the poet's father, as part of his efforts to produce a family genealogy. The pedigree is on a long vellum roll of five joined sheets and displays 88 hand-coloured coats of arms joined by highly illuminated branch and foliage decoration. There is an additional large and finely executed coat of arms of Sir Philip Sidney on the final sheet (currently detached), with Cooke's signature.

The Bodleian Library has a particular strength in books and manuscripts by and relating to Sidney and this roll is an important addition to the collection.

Pictured: Sir Philip Sidney Pedigree Roll. Photo by Adam Middleton.

Francesco Cavalli's Erismena

spine_sectionThe manuscript score of Francesco Cavalli's Erismena is the earliest opera in the English language. The privately-owned score had been the object of a temporary export ban by the Culture Minister in view of its 'outstanding significance for the study of the history of music in the UK'.

Erismena was originally produced in Italy in 1655 by the leading Italian composer of the mid-17th century, Francesco Cavalli (1602-76). This manuscript, with a complete English singing translation, was written in about 1670, evidently for performance (though none has been traced) thirty years earlier than any other import of Italian opera into England. Its prologue is unique to this manuscript, and may have been the work of an English composer. The manuscript makes its return to Oxford having been in the libraries of William and Philip Hayes, successive 18th-century professors of music in Oxford.

Pictured: The spine of the manuscript score of Cavalli's Erismena (MS. Mus. d. 282)

The 'particular-book' of James Nedeham, Surveyor of the King's Works, 1539-40

Image of a page of Surveyor of the King's Works manuscriptA manuscript 'particular-book' of James Nedeham, Surveyor of the King's Works in the reign of Henry VIII was originally part of the Foljambe Library removed from Osberton Hall, Nottinghamshire. Covering the years 1539-40, the volume fits perfectly into the sequence of eleven other such 'particular-books' in the Bodleian's Rawlinson collection.

These volumes record a variety of details relating to modifications and repairs to the structure and fittings of royal manors and palaces, and also the names of the labourers and craftsmen who carried out the work, with details of their pay each month.

Just as MS. Rawl. D. 775 records work carried out in May and June 1533 'ageynst the coronacion of the Quene' Anne Boleyn, the Foljambe volume includes payments for work done in preparation of the arrival of Anne of Cleves. The wedding of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves took place in the newly appointed Queen's closet on 6 January 1540.

Pictured: A page from James Nedeham's pay-book, showing accounts for work at Greenwich just after the marriage there of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. (MS. Don. c. 206)

The Sheldon Tapestry Map of Gloucestershire

Sheldon TapestryA substantial part of a map of Gloucestershire, depicting also parts of Wiltshire and Monmouthshire, woven in wools and silks, part of a series of four large tapestry maps commissioned by Ralph Sheldon (1537-1613) for the Sheldon family home in Weston, Warwickshire, probably in the 1590s.

Two of the four (Worcestershire and Oxfordshire) were already owned by the Bodleian, having been bequeathed by the antiquary Richard Gough in 1809, and a third (Warwickshire) is part of the Warwickshire Museum's collection.

The maps are of major significance for cartographic history, forming a unique representation of the landscape of the Midland Counties of England when modern cartography was still in its infancy. The maps are also significant as examples of decorative art. Technically, they are without parallel in the UK, with only two other continental equivalents, the so-called Armada tapestries woven for Lord Effingham in 1595, and a tapestry map of Leiden woven in Flanders around 1587.

Pictured: The Sheldon Tapestry Map of Gloucestershire. Photo by Nick Millea.

The Tom Phillips Archive of Dante's Inferno

Dante in his StudyAn archive of materials relating to the Talfourd Press edition of Dante's Inferno, translated, illustrated, designed and published by the artist Tom Phillips (b. 1937), one of the great 20th-century livres d'artiste.

This archive enriches the Bodleian Library's collection of materials associated with the arts of the book and is a major addition to the Library's holdings relating to Italian studies.

Pictured: Tom Phillips, Dante in his Study. Copyright Tom Phillips, The Tom Phillips Archive of Dante's Inferno.

Manuscripts of Sir Robert Filmer

A group of manuscripts of Sir Robert Filmer, 1st Baronet (1588?-1653), political theorist, and of other Filmer family members, discovered among a collection in the Filmer home of East Sutton Park, Kent, in 1939, and later acquired by the scholar Peter Laslett, who identified Filmer as the embodiment of the intellectual ideas opposed by the philosopher John Locke later in the 17th-century.

The presence of the Filmer manuscripts alongside Paul Mellon's portion of the Locke library and manuscripts in the Bodleian Library will add to the importance of the Library as a centre for the study of the history of political thought during the 17th century.

Philip Larkin Letters

A collection of nearly 2,000 letters, cards, poems and photographs sent by Philip Larkin (1922-1985), one of the most significant poets writing in the English Language during the second half of the 20th-century, to Monica Jones, a lecturer at Leicester University who died in 2001, who enjoyed a sustained relationship with Larkin for over 40 years and who, following his wishes, burned his diaries at his death.

The collection is a largely unresearched source of information about Larkin's life, feelings and poetry, and contains unpublished poems and manuscript and typescript drafts of poems that were eventually published. It joins other significant groups of Larkin material already in the Bodleian.

The Abinger Shelley Papers

Shelley's draft manuscript of FrankensteinThe Abinger Shelley papers, a major source for British literary and intellectual history during the Romantic period, comprise of the papers of:

  • the philosopher William Godwin (1756-1836), author of the influential treatise An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) and of his wife, the pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792);

  • the incoming correspondence and other papers of their daughter Mary Shelley (1797-1851) and of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822);

  • and much further material of their family and circles.

Included are three key pieces: the surviving fragments of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein manuscripts; the joint journal of Percy and Mary Shelley, in five volumes; and the unpublished journal of William Godwin in 32 volumes, 1788-1836.

Pictured: Page from Mary Shelley's draft manuscript of Frankenstein, with Percy Bysshe Shelley's corrections (Abinger Shelley papers Dep.c.477/1, fol.21r, detail).

Mendelssohn's Hebrides or Fingal's Cave Overture

Mendelssohn's Hebrides or Fingal's Cave OvertureThe final working autograph manuscript of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's Hebrides or Fingal's Cave overture. One of the composer's best known works, the overture was inspired by a visit to the Hebrides in 1829 and was to be three years in gestation.

This manuscript was written during the composer's next visit to England, and is dated at the end 'London 20 June 1832'. Its 34 pages are full of deletions and revisions in his characteristically fine calligraphic hand, reflecting his final main work on the composition.

The Bodleian's magnificent Mendelssohn collection already contained important source material relating to the work, and now offers unique opportunities for the study of the development of the work.

Pictured: Mendelssohn's Hebrides or Fingal's Cave Overture (MS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn d. 71, fol.8r).

The Book of Curiosities and Marvels for the Eyes

View the manuscript online »

Rectangular world map from The Book of CuriositiesA newly discovered medieval Arabic manuscript of an anonymous treatise entitled Kitâb Gharââal-funûwa- mullah al 'unûn, or loosely translated, The Book of Curiosities and Marvels for the Eyes, probably originally composed in Egypt in AD 1020-1050, this apparently unique copy was probably made in about 1200.

The treatise is made up of two books, one dealing with the heavens (10 chapters), and the other with the earth (25 chapters). Both books include a remarkable series of early maps and astronomical diagrams, most of which are unparalleled in any other known extant Greek, Latin or Arabic manuscript.

This is an Islamic scientific manuscript of the first importance for scholarship and an important acquisition for the Bodleian, which has one of the few significant collections of medieval Islamic cartographic manuscripts in Europe.

Pictured: Rectangular world map from The Book of Curiosities and Marvels for the Eyes, c.1200 (MS. Arab. c.90, fols. 23v-24r).

A Manuscript Book of Hours

St. George's Hours, OxfordMade for use at St. George's, Oxford in the late 14th century. The Oxford origins of this fragmentary Book of Hours of the Use of Sarum are revealed in its calendar, where the entry for 2 April reads 'Dedicacio sancti georgii oxonie'.

St George's, Oxford, was the church built in 1074 within Oxford Castle. The book is datable by its illumination.

The three surviving historiated initials are enough to reveal that the iconographic programme for the Hours of the Virgin consisted of a cycle of scenes of the Passion of Christ, common in English Books of Hours, but differing from the French pattern of scenes from the Life of the Virgin.

Pictured: One of three surviving historiated initials from the St. George's Hours, Oxford, late 14th century (MS. Don. d. 206, fol. 30v).

Sir Charles Mackerras: a bust by Antonia Young

Bust of Sir Charles MackerrasSir Charles received an honorary D. Mus. from Oxford in 1997 and is an honorary fellow of St. Peter's College.

The Dunard Fund has donated a substantial sum towards the creation of the new Music Reading Room in the proposed New Bodleian redevelopment, and wishes that room to be named the Charles Mackerras Music Reading Room. The bust will eventually occupy a place of honour in the new reading room.

Pictured: Sir Charles Mackerras: a bust by Antonia Young. Photo copyright Greg Smolonski.

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