Major donors

Beyond the Work of One

William Waynflete (1395–1486)

Magdalen’s founder and most important benefactor, Waynflete began his long career as schoolmaster at Westminster, going on to become Provost of Eton College, bishop of Winchester, and Chancellor of England. In 1481 his gift to the college of about 800 printed and manuscript books would have ensured that Magdalen’s was then one of the best-stocked libraries in Oxford. Waynflete left the college other gifts, including land with an income of about £600, his bishop’s mitre and crozier (confiscated by Parliament in the 17th century), and his buskins and boots.

56. William Waynflete’s boots
Magdalen William Waynflete's boots, Magdalen College College
Gift of William Waynflete (1400–86)
Recent research suggests that these boots were made in the mid-15th century. The fabric is red Italian velvet, brocaded with silver-gilt bell-flowers, and lined with felt. They have leather platform soles that show signs of wear. Waynflete left Magdalen other late medieval footwear: pontifical stockings of pink lampas silk, with flowers embroidered in polychrome silk, as well as the tawed goatskin linings of shoes that were once covered in ivory silk.

William Warham (c. 1450–1532)

William Warham, born a couple of generations after Waynflete, followed an even more illustrious career: Fellow of New College, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chancellor of England, Chancellor of Oxford University, patron and friend of Erasmus. He was forced to accept Henry VIII as supreme head of the church, and though he protested, was unable to prevent the complete submission of church to state. Warham added to the libraries of Winchester, All Souls and New College. Of the many books he gave New College, 17 manuscript and 41 printed volumes survive. He also presented a pair of stunning silk gloves.

57. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics and Politics
New College, MS 228
Gift of William Warham (1450?—1532)
This translation into Latin was made by the Italian humanist Leonardo Bruni (1370–1444), and the manuscript was written by the English humanist John Russell (c. 1430–94, Fellow of New College from 1449 and Sub-Warden in 1461). It was part of Warham’s gift to the college library.

58. William Warham’s gloves
New College, Chattels 1755
Gift of William Warham
These late 15th/early 16th-century gloves are made of red knitted silk. Each is decorated with a sunburst around ‘IHS’ (the monogram of Jesus Christ) at its centre, has a broad flower and green quatrefoil wrist, and a double band of silver thread on each finger. Most college account books of this time record payments for beautifully fashioned gloves (but not so elaborate as these), given as gifts to dignitaries on special occasions.


William Gray (c. 1414–78)

Gray, who came from a distinguished Northumberland family, was at Balliol by 1431. He was appointed Chancellor of Oxford University c.1440. Later he visited Cologne, Florence, Padua, Ferrara, and Rome, collecting manuscripts on the way. After serving as King’s Proctor to the papal court, he became bishop of Ely in 1454. The collection of books Gray left Balliol has been described as ‘by far the finest, as well as the largest, private collection to survive in England from the Middle Ages’. It doubled the size of the Balliol library, which required the addition of four bays to house it.

59. [Quintilian], Declamationes maiores
Balliol College, MS 139 [Quintilian], Declamationes maiores, Balliol College, MS 139
Gift of William Gray (c. 1414–78)
Interest in the works of the rhetorician and educator Quintilian (c. 35 – c. 100) was revived by the Italian humanists. The Declamationes, considered in Gray’s time to be by Quintilian, is a set of exercises in rhetorical speech-making, legal cases argued on behalf of different parties. Gray probably commissioned this fine copy of a popular humanistic text during a stay in Italy 1444–54.

Thomas Allen (1540–1632)

Allen was a mathematician connected with Trinity College, friend of Sir Thomas Bodley and donor to the Bodleian in 1601. He began collecting manuscripts in the 1560s, at a time when monastic libraries had but recently been dispersed, and when some Oxford colleges were replacing their older manuscript collections with printed books. He left some of his books to Trinity, and the larger part to his pupil Sir Kenelm Digby, who presented his collection to the Bodleian Library in 1634. It is in great measure due to Allen that the Bodleian has one of the largest collections of manuscripts reflecting English monastic learning, including an exceptional record of medieval mathematics and science.

60. Euclid, [Kitab Tahrir Usul li-Uqlidis] Euclidis elementorum geometricorum libri tredecim (Rome, 1594)Euclid's Elements (1594), Trinity College
Trinity College
Gift of Thomas Allen (1540?—1632)
Euclid was first known in the West through Latin translations of Arabic versions. This is the first printing of the 13th-century Arabic translation by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi of Euclid’s Elements, which is among the oldest extant Greek mathematical treatises, and one of the most influential texts in the history of mathematics. It made a fitting gift to his old college from the mathematician Thomas Allen.

61. La Chanson de Roland
Bodleian Library, MS. Digby 23 (part 2)
Gift of Thomas Allen via Sir Kenelm Digby
‘The Oxford Roland’, the earliest manuscript of this, the oldest major work of French literature, was written in Anglo-Norman in the 12th century. Perhaps it was already bound with a copy of the Latin translation of Plato’s Timaeus when the latter was bequeathed to Oseney Abbey by Master Henry of Langley (died c. 1263). The volume was left by Thomas Allen to Sir Kenelm Digby, who gave it to the Bodleian in 1634.

William Laud (1573–1645)

President of St John’s, active Chancellor of Oxford University who created a new code of statutes, and Archbishop of Canterbury under the patronage of Charles I, Laud also showed himself an energetic and wide-ranging collector of books. He amassed substantial collections of manuscripts both ancient and newly copied, which he gave to the Bodleian and to his beloved St John’s, where his gifts included manuals and textbooks for educational use. He set the University Printing Press on a firm basis, and promoted Greek, Arabic and Hebrew studies. The Long Parliament of 1640 impeached Laud for treason, and he was executed in 1645.

62. Al-Sakkaki, Yusuf ibn Abi Bakr ibn Muhammad, Miftah al-‘ulum [The Key to the Sciences]
St John’s College, MS 122
Gift of William LaudSt John’s College, MS 122
A 14th-century Arabic manuscript compendium of the linguistic sciences, acquired by Sir Kenelm Digby and presented to St John’s by Laud. This is representative of the sort of practical book – manuals and textbooks – that Laud gave to his college.

63. Laud’s capArchbishop Laud's cap (St. John's College)
St John’s College
Tradition has it that this is the cap Laud wore to his execution, a tradition possibly inspired by the ghoulish idea that the cutaways were created by the executioner’s axe. However, an eyewitness, Simon Foster, stated that in fact Laud wore ‘his ordinary hat faced with taffeta’.

64. ‘Codex Laud’Bodleian Library, MS. Laud Misc. 678
Bodleian Library, MS. Laud Misc. 678
Gift of William Laud
This pre-Colombian (?15th-century) screenfold manuscript from lost its national identity by the time Archbishop Laud obtained it from some unknown source in 1636. It came in a finely decorated leather box, perhaps Spanish or Italian, to which Laud’s secretary mistakenly added a label in Latin, ‘Book of Egyptian hieroglyphics’. Its images of Mexican deities, rituals and the native calendar bolstered Laud’s aims of extending the range of cultures to be studied at his University.

Thomas Barlow (1608/9–1691)

Barlow was successively Bodley’s Librarian, Provost of The Queen’s College, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and bishop of Lincoln. His knowledge of contemporary Oxford philosophical and theological studies was encyclopaedic. He was a friend and correspondent of Thomas Hobbes. After his death his library, including manuscript and printed books, and many pamphlets on contemporary political and ecclesiastical affairs, was divided between the Bodleian and The Queen’s College, where the bequest occasioned the building of the magnificent Upper Library.

65. Christine de Pisan, The Fayt of Armes and of Chyvalrye, translated into English and printed by William Caxton, 1489The Queen’s College, Sel.a.113
The Queen’s College, Sel.a.113
Gift of Thomas Barlow (1608/9–1691)
Christine de Pisan (1364 – c. 1430) may have been the first woman professional author, a career she successfully followed to support her family in financial difficulties. She is probably best known for her poetical and persuasive rhetorical work, such as The Book of the City of Ladies, but her repertoire extended to military strategy.

66. ‘The Barlow psalter’
Bodleian Library, MS Barlow 22
Bequest of Thomas Barlow
The early 14th-century ‘Barlow psalter’ is the masterpiece of its anonymous East Anglian artist, ‘The Barlow master’. It had belonged to Walter de Rouceby, a monk of Peterborough Abbey (died 1341). The Latin psalter is preceded by a sequence of New Testament scenes, all illuminated to the highest quality, and survives in its medieval binding with painted edges.

Thomas Marshall (1621–85)

Marshall was awarded his BA in 1645. A Royalist, he went abroad, and was chaplain to the Merchant Adventurers in Holland from 1650 to 1672, where he met leading philologists. He became Rector of Lincoln College in 1672, then Dean of Gloucester. A serious student of theology, philology, Germanic and oriental studies, he was always a generous scholar, procuring manuscripts for his colleagues, assisting them in editing their research, and even searching out continental type for John Fell at the University Press. He bequeathed hundreds of printed and manuscript books to the Bodleian; his gift to his college of 1040 books and 77 volumes of Civil War tracts transformed Lincoln’s library.

67. Medieval bindings on Dutch manuscripts
Bodleian Library
Bequest of Thomas Marshall
A selection of well-preserved medieval bindings from Thomas Marshall’s bequest to Oxford University.

68. Francis Junius to Thomas Marshall, 31 December 1669
Bodleian Library, MS. Marshall 134
Gift of Thomas Marshall
Junius wrote to Marshall from The Hague, describing the visit of the bookseller Robert Scott, who was angling for a trade discount on his sales of the Gothic and Anglo-Saxon Gospels:

‘But, sayd he, if I should desire to have 50 or 100 copies to bee sent to me, some thing I hope should be abated of the price, according to the proportion of copies. You have reason to expect, answered I, and all that busines I doe referre to Dr Marshall …’

69. Gothic and Anglo-Saxon gospels (Dordrecht, 1665)Gothic and Anglo-Saxon gospels (1665), Lincoln College
Lincoln College, SR 1
Gift of Thomas Marshall
The Anglo-Saxon gospels with facing translation in Gothic, accompanied by two volumes of commentary, formed Thomas Marshall’s most important work. He edited the gospels at the request of his fellow philologist Francis Junius (1598–1677). Marshall presented this copy to his college.

William Wake (1657–1737)

William Wake was a canon of Christ Church, bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of Canterbury, and author of polemical pamphlets that brought him to prominence during the Catholic controversy following the accession of James II in 1686. He was also a distinguished historian – The State of the Church and Clergy of England (1703) was his most important publication – and naturally collected books and manuscripts to support that work. He and others left Christ Church such extensive collections of books and manuscripts that a new library had to be built to house them.

70. A Byzantine Evangeliary
Christ Church, MS 28Byzantine Evangeliary, Christ Church, MS 28
Bequest of William Wake (1657–1737)
This manuscript book of the gospels was written in the late 14th century in Constantinople by the scribe Gregorios, possibly in the famous scriptorium at the Hodegon monastery. It remained in monasteries for some centuries before Archbishop Wake acquired it in around 1735. The opening shows a miniature of St Mark and the first lines of his gospel.

71. Palm leaf Book of Common Prayer
Christ Church, MS. 233 Christ Church, MS. 233
Gift of John Sneyd (1763–1835)
Archbishop Wake was famous for his correspondence with colleagues around the world, among them the missionary Benjamin Schultze (1689–1760). This unusual Book of Common Prayer was translated into Tamil by Schultze in 1726 for his missionary work in Tranquebar, India. He had a number of projects to translate the Bible and other Christian materials into a variety of Indian languages.

72. The interior of the Codrington Library, showing marble statue of Codrington by Henry Cheere (1702–81)
All Souls College
Printed in the 1829 Oxford Almanack (with later hand-colouring), this view was drawn by C. Wild and engraved by Joseph Skelton.

Edward, fifth Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh (1742–86)

Edward was the first Leigh to go to Oriel, receiving his MA in 1764 and DCL a few years later. He devoted a great deal of his time to improving his house at Stoneleigh, collecting art, furniture, books, and music. Unfortunately Leigh died without heir, leaving a will that would create legal disputes into the 19th century. Among its provisions, the will gave his scientific instruments and his entire library to Oriel. The donation occasioned the building of a new Library designed by the architect James Wyatt and completed in 1791.

73. Henry Purcell, The Indian Queen
Oriel College, U.a.36
Gift of Edward, fifth Baron Leigh of Stoneleigh
The autograph score of The Indian Queen (composed 1695), like that of almost all Purcell’s theatre music, is lost. This early copy (c. 1700) in the hand of a London copyist known to be associated with Henry Purcell’s brother, Daniel, is therefore one of the most important extant sources of the work. It was given to Oriel by Edward Leigh, whose Warwickshire home of Stoneleigh housed a large collection of music and a number of musical instruments. The scores were in common use in the house.

Robert Mason (1782–1841)

The son of the miller of the village of Hurley in Berkshire, Mason matriculated at St Edmund Hall in 1807, and took a BA and DD as a member of The Queen’s College. He became curate of Hurley in 1812 and retired in 1824, becoming increasingly reclusive. Mason left £36,000 to the Bodleian, and his collection of antiquities and £30,000 to Queen’s, stipulating that it be spent on the library within three years. The librarian purchased modern books and the greatest editions of earlier printed books, which made Queen’s the best college library of the time. To accommodate this gift, thearcade below the Upper Library was enclosed following the design of Charles Cockerell.

74. Giovanni Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus (Ulm: Johan Zainer, 1473)
The Queen’s College, Sel.a.126Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus (1473), The Queen's College
Bought from the bequest of Robert Mason (1782–1841)
This is the first printed edition of Boccaccio’s biographies, in Latin, of famous women (composed c. 1362); it is illustrated with hand-coloured woodcuts. A previous owner was Pope Pius V (1504–72).

75, 76. ‘Reliques of Antiquity’Amulet (winged scarab), The Queen’s College
The Queen’s College
Bequest of Robert Mason
Robert Mason also left his collection of Egyptian, Roman, Grecian, and other ‘Reliques of Antiquity’ to The Queen’s College, among which are this Egyptian stele (18th Dynasty, Thebes), and ten amulets including a winged scarab. Mason’s collection is now housed in the Ashmolean Museum.Egyptian stele (18th Dynasty, Thebes), The Queen’s College

Recording the gifts

College libraries have been recording gifts for centuries, at first simply by entering donors’ names in the books they gave, or mentioning them in account books when related items – such as book-chains to secure the new acquisitions – were purchased. From the 17th century onward colleges, perhaps following the example of the newly refounded University Library, began to record donations in special volumes, sometimes bound in fine leather, with clasps of precious metals, or beautifully illustrated, like the University College benefactors’ book shown here.

77. Hertford College Library benefactors’ book
Hertford College Archives
Begun in 1656, during the Principalship of Henry Wilkinson (1616/17–1690). The first entries are for books given by Wilkinson himself; later gifts include a sizeable library of early medical books received in 1692. Thomas Hobbes hesitated to present his works to the college, fearing that they might be considered too controversial, until the Vice-Principal invited him to send a copy (see item 15).

78. Lord Nuffield’s donations book
Nuffield College
William Morris, Viscount Nuffield (1877-1963) began, aged sixteen, repairing and then building bicycles before moving on to the manufacture of motorcycles and motorcars. He has been described as ‘the most famous industrialist of his age’, but he is just as famous for his philanthropic achievements. These included the establishment of a medical school at Oxford in 1936, and the foundation of Nuffield College the following year. He bequeathed most of his remaining estate to the college.

79. University College Library benefactors’ book
University College, UC:BE1/MS1/3
In 1674, shortly after erecting a new library funded by donations from Old Members and friends, University College compiled this benefactors’ book recording all known gifts of books or funds for purchasing books; the earliest donation dates from 1406. Its title-page bears this splendid depiction of the new library (which was turned into student rooms in the 1860s, when the present library was built). Discoveries made in the 1950s proved that the drawing is fairly accurate.

80. William of Wykeham
Bodleian Library, Lane Poole no. 10
Oil on canvas, 1195mm × 915mm, by William Sonmans (d. 1708), based on the posthumous portrait by Sampson Strong, c. 1596, at New College. It is one of the series of imagined portraits of college founders painted by Sonmans which hang in Duke Humfrey’s Library. The arms are those of Winchester College impaling those of the sitter. The views at the top show Wykeham’s two foundations: Winchester College on the right, and New College on the left.

From the late 15th century, when printing increased the availability of books, individual scholars could form important research collections, for which college libraries made ideal homes. Former students might also present to their colleges copies of their own works.

The 17th and 18th centuries saw gifts of magnificent collections of manuscripts, printed books, music, prints and drawings valued for their beauty, antiquity, and associations; and great library buildings were designed to house them.

Such gifts continued in the 19th and 20th centuries. As authors’ and creators’ working drafts came to be valued, colleges received gifts from poets, writers and composers, as well as contemporary papers of historical importance, and memorabilia of life in college.
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