The 18th Century

Beyond the Work of One

By the 18th century the days when Fellows were expected to leave their books to their college had passed. The tradition continued, however, sometimes on a magnificent scale. Whereas large donations of the medieval period might number in the hundreds, the outstanding gifts of the 18th century comprise thousands of volumes. In keeping with the ideal of the cultured gentleman-collector, such gifts might include prints, music, coins and other antiquities, in addition to books and manuscripts. Sometimes a large bequest or even a single, specially chosen item was given for a particular reason to a college with which the donor himself did not have a formal connection. Theophilus Metcalfe, though not a member of The Queen’s College, presented its library with a significant collection of medical books ‘out of gratitude, respect and in the cause of friendship’.
Queen's College, Sel. f.77
20. Robert Hooke, Micrographia: or some physiological descriptions… . (London, 1665)
The Queen’s College, Sel. f. 77
Gift of Theophilus Metcalfe (1690–1757)
The remarkable illustrations in this volume record the appearance of
animals and objects viewed through magnifying lenses. This copy belonged to the physician and Fellow of Hart Hall, Theophilus Metcalfe. Little is known of his life, although he was described as a ‘learned, skilful and tender-hearted physician’. His gift of over 1,000 volumes to The Queen’s College made its medical collection one of the largest in an Oxford college library.

21. Nicolas and Guillaume Sanson, Atlas comprising maps of the world, 1647–83 Wadham College, G 15.19
Wadham College, G 15.19
Bequest of Charles Godolphin (c. 1651–1720)
Several members of the Godolphin family studied at Wadham in the
17th century. Charles Godolphin left his library to his college, including
books inherited from his uncle Sir William Godolphin, Charles II’s
ambassador to Madrid. The collection thus includes Spanish printed books and manuscripts, as well as items, such as this atlas, that are more likely to have been Charles Godolphin’s later additions.

22. Dr Johnson records his thanks Samuel Johnson letter, 1769, Trinity College
Trinity College Archives
Samuel Johnson (1709–84) attended Pembroke College for only one year (1728–9), but retained an affection for his college and the University and was awarded an MA in 1755. In 1754 Johnson spent five weeks visiting Thomas Warton (Fellow of Trinity 1751, later Professor of Poetry). Johnson stayed at Kettell Hall, adjacent to Trinity College, and was permitted to work on his dictionary in the Trinity library. The letter displayed here was written by him to accompany a copy of the Baskerville edition of the works of Virgil, which he sent to Trinity College in 1769 to express his gratitude.

23. Dr Johnson’s gruel mug Pembroke College, Johnson's mug
Pembroke College
This mug was kept by Warton for Johnson’s use when visiting. Treasured as a Johnsonian ‘relic’, it had several owners before it was finally donated to Pembroke in 1858.

24. Samuel Johnson, The plan of a dictionary of the English language
(London, 1747) Pembroke College, J 17.1
Pembroke College, J 17. 1
Gift of the McGowin family
From the Johnson collection of Norman Floyd McGowin (1900–81; matriculated at Pembroke 1922). This and other Johnson items were
donated to Pembroke College in 1983 by his family, who also funded
the building of a new college library. The McGowin family have an association with Pembroke spanning several generations and exemplify
the generosity of many American Oxonians.

25. Orlando Gibbons, The first set of madrigals and motets of 5 parts:
apt for viols and voyces (London, 1612) Christ Church, Mus. 708-712
Christ Church, Mus. 708–712
Henry Aldrich (1648-1710)Bequest of Henry Aldrich (1648–1710)
This collection includes the famous ‘Silver Swan’ madrigal. The elaborate gold-tooled bindings bear the crest of the dedicatee, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose books and musical scores later formed the core of the library amassed by Henry Aldrich, Dean of Christ Church.
Aldrich, an architectural adviser, gifted musician and composer, left the college 3,000 books, over 2,000 prints, and manuscripts of more than
8,000 musical compositions.

George Clarke (1661–1736) – politician, architect and collector

A Fellow of All Souls from 1680 until his death, George Clarke had a political career as MP, Judge-Advocate of the Army, Secretary at War and in the Admiralty. He then became the University’s leading authority on aesthetic matters, designed Oxford Almanacks, and was involved in all major building projects. He inherited books and papers from his father Sir William Clarke (Secretary at War to the Commonwealth and Charles II), collected books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, and paintings, and acquired most of Inigo Jones’s library. Disgusted by quarrels at All Souls, he left the bulk of his estate to the newly founded Worcester College, whose buildings he designed.

George Clarke (1661-1736), Worcester College26. Portrait miniature of George Clarke (1661–1736)
Worcester College
This miniature, after the oil portrait (school of Sir Godfrey Kneller) in Worcester College, has a gilt frame with Clarke’s monogram on the reverse. It was bequeathed by Clarke to John Michel, 1736.

27. A royal binding
Worcester College, LRA.4.2 Worcester College, LRA.4.2
Bequest of George Clarke
Limp white vellum covers with gold tooling, including the Prince of Wales’s feathers, on Charles Butler, The principles of musik, in singing and setting: with the two-fold use therof, ecclesiasticall and civil (London: J. Haviland, 1636). Presented by the author to its dedicatee Charles II when Prince of Wales, and probably bought by Clarke’s father from the Royal Library after the deposition of Charles I.

28. A decorated binding
Worcester College, LRA.5.10
Bequest of George ClarkeWorcester College, LRA.5.10
Binding with silver thread and purl, or coiled wire, copiously decorated with seed pearls: possibly bound for Elizabeth of Bohemia (sister of Charles I). On George Carleton, A thankfull remembrance of Gods mercy. (London: M. Flesher, 1627).

29. Inigo Jones’s Palladio
Worcester College
Bequest of George ClarkeWorcester College, Palladio (1601)

This copy of I quattro libri dell’architettura di Andrea Palladio (Venice: Bartolomeo Carampello, 1601) has annotations by Inigo Jones. It was taken round Italy by Jones on his trip with Lord Arundel in 1613–14. In March 1709 it was bought from the Oxford engraver Michael Burghers by George Clarke, who left it to Worcester College.

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.
Back to top