27 February 2009
The Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, visited the Bodleian Library today, during his visit to Oxford on the occasion of the Romanes lecture.
After giving the lecture in the Sheldonian Theatre adjacent to the Library, Gordon Brown attended a private viewing of some treasures from the Bodleian Library put on display in the Universityís Convocation House. The manuscripts included: an original 1217 reissue of Magna Carta, St Margaretís Gospel-book, owned in the eleventh century by Margaret, Queen of Scots, some papers of the former Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan and the manuscript of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
After the viewing, the Prime Minister joined members of the University, including students and researchers in the social sciences and the humanities, at a reception in the Bodleianís iconic Divinity School.
Bodleian treasures on display:
- An original 1217 reissue of Magna Carta, one of the keystones of civil liberty. The Bodeian holds the highest number of surviving original issues of the 13th century anywhere and all four of these were on public display for one day in December 2007. The legacy of this display is a public lecture by Professor Richard Sharpe, which can be found in our Library of free BODcasts. The plans for library redevelopment include putting these and similar Bodleian treasures on long-term public display.
- St Margaretís Gospel-book (picture below), owned in the eleventh century by Margaret, Queen of Scots, renowned for her goodness and learning (and later canonized).Queen Margaret of Scotland held her court at Dunfermline, where Gordon Brown holds his parliamentary seat. She established Dunfermline as a seat of learning. This book will have been there.
- The Callaghan Papers, some five hundred boxes acquired in 1992 and closed by Lord Callaghan during his lifetime. Callaghan had the rare distinction of holding all three senior Cabinet posts (Chancellor of the Exchequer (1964-67), Home Secretary (1967-70) and Foreign Secretary (1974-76)) before serving as Prime Minister (1976-1979). The Prime Minister will look at a draft from his memoir.
- The manuscript of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century. The manuscript is written mostly in the hand of Mary but with extensive additions and revisions by her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Convocation House: Convocation House was built between 1634 and 1637 as the meeting place for the Universityís supreme legislative body. It served as the meeting room for Charles Iís Parliament while the King was resident in Oxford during the Civil War, and the House of Commons met twice there during the reign of Charles II (1665, during the Plague, and 1681).
The Divinity School: Dating from 1427, the Divinity School was built to house lectures for the faculty of theology and is one of the oldest surviving University buildings. It is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture and is particularly noted for its elaborate fan-vaulted ceiling.