The last six months have borne witness to a period of considerable change here at the Parker Library. Not only has Christopher de Hamel, our former Donnelley Fellow Librarian, retired, but our two Sub-Librarians, Steven Archer and Beth Dumas, have departed in pursuit of new opportunities at Christ Church, Oxford and St. Andrews respectively. Leaving two vacancies in their stead, I arrived in January and was closely followed in March by the other new Sub-Librarian, Alex Devine, to take over what, I believe, is one of the most amazing collections of medieval manuscripts and rare books in England. We also now have twitter (@ParkerLibCCCC).

In light of that last development, we thought it might be interesting to start off by providing a digital snapshot of our current exhibition. Curated by myself, Alex Devine, and Charlie Barranu, the exhibition, entitled ‘Learning in Cambridge’, was installed in celebration of graduation here at the college and seeks to examine how our rare books and manuscripts can support each of the major academic disciplines studied here at Corpus. Over the coming weeks, each one of us will be providing a brief insight into our aims and though processes in putting together each of the eight cases in the current exhibition. Images of each manuscript currently on display will be published daily on our twitter feed, and the captions which we wrote to accompany the items in the physical exhibition will be found at the bottom of each blog post. Thus, without further ado, let’s address the first case on the left as you enter the exhibition space, one which is currently devoted to the study of Theology.

Case 1

Figure 1: The first case, dedicated to the study of Theology 

Seeing as the largest single donation to the Parker library was given by an Archbishop of Canterbury, I was spoiled for choice when it came to picking items to represent the study of Theology in the first case. Given the breadth of items available, I chose to focus on the way in which the Bible was read and studied throughout the medieval period. The canon tables of the massive Dover Bible provided a clear direction as the concordances so beautifully displayed within them have been carried through the rest of the gospel text, being carefully added into the margin of the relevant episodes. The second item in the case, the Biblia Pauperum, illustrates the way in which connections were forged not only within the New Testament, but between the Old Testament and the New, while the final item, a 15th-century Psalter, was chosen to show how the practice of visualising the implements of the crucifixion during prayer, a central tenant of those who followed devotino moderna movement, came to be reflected in the pages of the Psalters they would have prayed from.

Anne McLaughlin

Sub-Librarian, The Parker Library



Twelfth century, Christ Church Canterbury

Dover Priory was a dependency of Christ Church Canterbury during the twelfth century, and it is probable that this bible was produced at the larger foundation but intended for use in Dover. Though the Bible has been beautifully illuminated with large decorated initials throughout, the canon tables displayed here have been framed by Romanesque arches with thin and highly decorated columns – reminiscent of Norman architecture. Designed in the third century AD, canon tables are used to allow the reader to identify where in each of the four gospels a single episode occurs; for instance, the first line in the canon tables dictates that the fulfilment of one of Isiah’s prophecies by John the Baptist is found in section VIII in the Gospel of Matthew, II in Marc, VII in Luke, and X in John.



c.1460, possibly from the Netherlands

Notoriously difficult to date, copies of the Biblia Pauperum were produced from woodcut blocks beginning in the 1430s and continually throughout the fifteenth century. Unlike printing with moveable type, in which letters and numbers can be freely rearranged, block books like the Biblia Pauperum were produced by carving the negative image of an entire page, both the text and the images, into a single wood-block, which was then inked and pressed against the paper. Though called the ‘Bible of the Poor’, and considerably cheaper to produce than a manuscript or even printed book, these ‘Bibles’ were intended for an educated and pious readership, such as a poor clergyman, or as a focus for personal meditation. Each of the central scenes is taken from the New Testament (on this opening the ‘Kiss of Judas’ and ‘Pilate washes his hands’) while the flaking images depict the typological precedents for the central image pulled from the Old Testament (on the left: ‘Abner treacherously killed by Joab’ and ‘Tryphon treacherously takes Jonathan captive’; and on the right: ‘Jezebel seeks to kill Elijah’ and ‘Daniel accused by the Babylonians’).


PSALTER (formerly Ferrell MS 3)

Fifteenth century, Syon Abbey, Middlesex

Likely made for a female member of the Brigantine community at Syon Abbey, this small psalter would likely have been used as a personal devotional text. The illuminations found at the beginning of each of the major psalms depict scenes from the life of Christ and are intended to be used as a focus for meditation while reading. The illumination in the initial D of Psalm 110 seen here shows a priest and two altar boys kneeling before an altar while the images of the instruments of the Passion and Christ himself seem to float in the air in front of them. Such an image suggests that the psalter’s illuminator was a follower of the devotio moderna, a religious movement within the Catholic faith popular from the fourteenth – sixteenth centuries which placed a high value on meditation and personal prayer, rather than on ritual and good works.






An illustrated Dutch book on astrology from the early sixteenth century might not be a typical work one would expect to find in the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. How would a copy of Tscep vol wonders (Brussels: Thomas van der Noot, 1514) have ended up in the library of an English archbishop?

tscep vol wonders

Figure 1: Tscep vol wonders title page. CCCC SP 53

As scholarship in material philology has continued to demonstrate since the late twentieth century, the physical characteristics of a volume are a rich and fruitful source for unraveling how a book was used, and by whom. A particularly noteworthy feature of the Parker copy of Tscep vol wonders is a handwritten annotation on the title page, which will be discussed here.

But first, let’s briefly introduce Tscep vol wonders. The text is a compilation of astrological and medical knowledge, probably compiled by the printer Thomas van der Noot himself [1]. It is divided into short chapters discussing the qualities and influences of the planets; diseases and ailments caused by imbalances in the humours of the body; health prescriptions on food, bathing, bloodletting etc.; and other medical-astrological content. Some of the chapters start with a woodcut illustration. These depict, among other things, personifications of the planets and the four temperaments, bloodletting, and purging. After the first edition of 1514, Van der Noot published the work again in 1520. There is a third edition with a somewhat different layout and some different woodcuts (Antwerp: Claes de Grave, 1535).

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The Parker copy of Tscep vol wonders is bound with two learned theological works in Latin: Johannes Hug’s Quadruvium ecclesie (printed in Strasbourg by Johannes Grüninger, 1504) and a handwritten transcript of a disputation on the nature of the Eucharist held at Oxford in 1549 (MS 495). It is not known who combined these three texts in one volume, nor when and why this was done, but according to the catalogue entry, “this binding arrangement may well date from Parker’s time”.




Apart from its inclusion in a volume with theological texts, other material evidence of how the Parker copy of Tscep vol wonders may have been used is scarce. Indeed, its pages are so pristine that we may wonder whether it was read at all. It contains only one handwritten annotation, which is in fact an interesting one because it seems to provide a clue of the book’s early provenance. On the title page, above the printed title Tscep vol wonders, is a handwritten translation: “The schip full wonders”.


tscep vol wonders detail

Figure 5: The English translation of the title

The handwriting is not Parker’s [2], nor that of the scribe of MS 495, but it is clearly from the sixteenth century. The annotation therefore indicates that the Dutch work found its way to an English owner early in its lifetime. Even more interestingly, the phrasing betrays a heavy influence from Dutch. Although the spelling “schip” for “ship” was not uncommon in sixteenth-century English [3], it might suggest that the annotator who wrote it was more comfortable in Dutch. This is implied even more strongly by the phrasing “full wonders”. These words are a literal translation of the Dutch “vol wonders”, whereas in English (even in sixteenth-century English) it would be more obvious to say “full of wonders”.

The annotation therefore points to the possibility that this Dutch book was handed to an English reader (to Parker himself?) by someone from the Low Countries who was more familiar with Dutch than they were with English. This suggestion still leaves many questions unanswered regarding the readership of the Parker copy of Tscep vol wonders, but it illustrates how even a single, unobtrusive annotation can prove valuable when attempting to reconstruct a book’s history.


 Andrea van Leerdam

Andrea van Leerdam is a PhD candidate at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, working on the project ‘Woodcuts as Reading Aids: Illustrations and Knowledge Transfer in Printed Books in Dutch on the Natural World, c. 1480 – c. 1550’


[1] More on Tscep vol wonders and the cultural context in which it originated: Arjan van Dixhoorn, ‘Nature, Play and the Middle Dutch Knowledge Community of Brussels in the late Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries’, in: Bettina Noak (ed.), Wissenstransfer und Auctoritas in der frühneuzeitlichen niederländischsprachigen Literatur (Göttingen 2014), 99-122.

[2] I thank Sub-Librarian Anne McLaughlin for examining the handwritten annotation with me during my visit to the Parker Library.

[3] The Oxford English Dictionary lists several medieval and early modern spelling variants starting with ‘sch…’, including schepe, schype, and schippe. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/178226?rskey=KfhUlF&result=2&isAdvanced=false#eid

Of all the extant copies of John Hayward’s The Life and Raigne of King Edward the Sixt (1630), the British Library Catalogue maintains that the only copy in England which escaped the cancels to which printer John Lichfield subjected the book, is housed in the Palace Green Library at the University of Durham (Routh Library SB 2427).[i]

Until now, however, it was unknown that the Parker Library houses the second extant copy which retains a full set of cancellanda. I was thrilled to discover, while collating multiple copies of the book for a larger project on its various states, that the Parker Library’s copy (K.8.14) had also eluded the cancellation process.

There are four cancels in most extant copies, all of which tone down sharply pejorative and frequently insulting characterizations of key political figures in Edward VI’s reign, including Richard Rich, Lord Chancellor, and the infamous Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector:[ii]

L3 Cancellandum_trimmed

L3 Cancellans_trimmed

Figure 1: L3v cancellandum (Parker K.8.14) versus L3v cancellans (C.11.39)


M3 Cancellandum_trimmed

M3 Cancellans_trimmed

Figure 2: M3v cancellandum (Parker K.8.14) versus M3v cancellans (C.11.39)


N3 cancellandum_ trimmed

N3 cancellans_trimmed

Figure 3: N3r cancellandum (Parker K.8.14) versus N3r cancellans (C.11.39)


Q4 cancellandum trimmed

Q4 cancellans trimmed

Figure 4: Q4v cancellandum (Parker K.8.14) versus Q4v cancellans (C.11.39)

These minor redactions are hardly surprising. On one hand, Lichfield is known to have been a staunch Royalist[iii] and, at a time of mounting political tension during Charles I’s reign, he must have been naturally eager to avoid printing anything controversial, no matter how historically distant. His censored version takes the removes the edge from some of Hayward’s choice disparagements, but selects phrases brief enough that their reduction does not affect the lineation beyond the page on which they occur. The reason that Lichfield agreed to print a book whose ‘politic’ characterizations evidently caused him some unease, is unknown.

On the other, Hayward’s reputation as what S.L. Goldberg has called a “politic historian”[iv] lent the act of acquiring and owning his books a certain status. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Parker’s copy. For perhaps the most singular thing about this copy, aside from the uniqueness of its full set of cancellanda, is the fact that it has been anthologized together with two of Hayward’s other biographical works, The Lives of the Three Norman Kings (1613) and The Life and Raigne of Henrie IIII (1599):

Table of contents

Figure 5: Table of contents on flyleaf (Parker K.8.14)

The binding of the three texts together, I have concluded, was carried out by its first documented owner, Thomas Mottershed, whose signature appears in a round hand on the first page of the dedication of Norman Kings:



Figure 6: The Lives of the Three Norman Kings signature on A2r (Parker K.8.14)

The volume was later acquired by a bookseller, who inscribed the table of contents above on the flyleaf, and priced it at 1 shilling and sixpence (Fig. 5).

While no biographical information about Mottershed seems to be available, this act of anthologizing suggests not only a particular interest in Haywards oeuvre, but therein, perhaps, an active political awareness and an interest in political controversy. For, though Goldberg credits Hayward with developing a style of biography less didactic than that of his contemporaries, “untangling of the terminology of analysis from that of morality in both psychology and politics,”[v] the textual redactions illustrated above demonstrate that “Hayward’s final terms of explanation are the characters of the actors”[vi] – and these were sometimes controversial for their derogatory foregrounding of baser character traits, as well as the way they were perceived to parallel contemporary figures and events. Indeed, Hayward’s writings carried a reputation for political controversy during his lifetime: parallels between Bolingbroke in his First Part of the Life and Raigne of King Henrie IIII (1599) and the Earl of Essex were perceived by Elizabeth I to encourage the Essex rebellion, causing Hayward to be imprisoned in the Tower.[vii]

The Parker’s volume, then, hints at an interesting story – one whose details remain enshrouded in mystery. Why does anyone anthologize a collection of texts? Typically, they are interested in an author’s body of work, in ideas threading through it, in continuity or evolution of style and form, in the recurrence of certain themes or viewpoints. These three biographies were published at quite disparate dates (Edward VI having been published posthumously by John Partridge)[viii] and not printed to be bound together. As such, Mottershed’s anthology indicates an ethos of collecting, of gathering Hayward’s texts into one place. Perhaps he was interested in themes of political controversy, or in the parallel between historical and current political events which Hayward’s writings had already evoked. At least three of the biographies – those of William the Conqueror, Henry IV, and Edward VI – deal with themes relating to the overthrow, or attempted overthrow, of an incumbent monarchical regime. In the decade leading up to the English Civil War, anthologizing such a body of texts was an extremely suggestive act.

Vanessa M. Braganza



[i] British Library, <http://explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/display.do?tabs=moreTab&ct=display&fn=search&doc=BLL01001627685&indx=1&recIds=BLL01001627685&recIdxs=0&elementId=0&renderMode=poppedOut&displayMode=full&frbrVersion=&dscnt=1&scp.scps=scope%3A%28BLCONTENT%29&frbg=&tab=local_tab&dstmp=1492513903250&srt=rank&mode=Basic&vl(488279563UI0)=any&dum=true&tb=t&vl(freeText0)=john%20hayward%20life%20and%20raigne%20of%20edward%20the%20sixt&vid=BLVU1> accessed 18 April 2017

[ii] Images of the cancellans are taken from the copy at St. John’s College, Cambridge (C.11.39). Each pair of images displays the cancellandum above, followed by the corresponding cancellans immediately below. All images of St. John’s College C.11.39 are reproduced with the kind permission of the Master and Fellows of St. John’s College, Cambridge; all images of Corpus Christi College K.8.14 are reproduced with the kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

[iii] See Gadd, Ian, A History of the Oxford University Press, 3 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), v. 1, p. 68. Other bibliographic historians also attest to Lichfield’s Royalist leanings, and those of his son and successor, Leonard Lichfield: see Plomer, Henry R., A Dictionary of Booksellers and Printers Who Were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1641 to 1667 (London: Blades, East & Blades, 1907), p. 117; see also Bracken, James K. and Joel Silver, British Literary Booktrade, 1475-1700 (Detroit: Gale Research, 1996), pp. 153-156.

[iv] Goldberg, S.L., “John Hayward, ‘Politic’ Historian,” The Review of English Studies 6.23 (1955), 233-244.

[v] Ibid., 234.

[vi] Ibid., 238.

[vii] Ibid., 236. See also “Hayward, Sir John,” < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12794?docPos=2>; see also Dowling, Margaret, “Sir John Hayward’s troubles over his life of Henry IV,” The Library 4.2 (1930), 212-224.

[viii] Arber, Edward, A Transcript of the Stationers’ Registers, 1554-1640 A.D., 5 vols (London: Printed privately for the University of Cambridge, 1875), v. 4, p. 197.

The Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge owes most of its treasures to the efforts of one man: Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-1575). However, not all of the manuscripts now housed in the Library came from his original bequest to the College; there were other additions that continued to enrich the collection. One such example is CCCC MS 231, a modest-looking copy of the comedies of Terence from the early 1100s, which came to the Library in the late sixteenth century, possibly donated by the antiquarian and book collector Daniel Rogers (c.1538-1591).

Terence was a Latin author who wrote six comedies in the second century BC, all of which appear in our manuscript. It is not a deluxe edition: the parchment is often stained and shows evident scraping marks throughout, and the style of writing is not consistent. The text was copied by several scribes, and it is possible to distinguish at least two main scribal hands: H2 and H5.

Terence, H2

CCCC MS 231, f.6v (H2)

Terence, H5

CCCC MS 231, f.99r (H5)

Two further two hands (H1 and H6) also appear momentarily on single folios to complete certain sections.

Terence, H1

CCCC MS 231, f.1r (H1)

Terence, H6

CCCC MS 231, f.105r (H6)

Whilst H5 maintains a consistent style, H2 is much less disciplined, perhaps suggesting that he was a less experienced – and by extension, perhaps a more junior – scribe. Although there is no evidence to confirm that these two scribes were collaborating as they compiled the book, both hands may certainly be dated to approximately the same period, and the possibility that they were from the same institution cannot be discarded.

Other book hands appear in the manuscript (H3 and H4), both of a later date, which traced over portions of text that had, by their time, already faded. Whilst H3 was using the manuscript not long after it was first copied (possibly at the end of the twelfth or the beginning of the thirteenth century), H4 is visibly of a much later period (possibly from the fifteenth or even the early sixteenth century).

Terence, H3

CCCC MS 231, f.41v (H3)

Terence, H4

CCCC MS 231, f.67r (H4)

No evidence exists to indicate what use they made of the manuscript; however, the need to make the text legible again demonstrates that the text continued to attract interest into the Renaissance period.

The manuscript was also clearly extensively used throughout the Middle Ages. Signs of readership and use can be found in the interlinear and marginal gloss, as well as other later annotations. Although H2 is the main hand responsible for the gloss (which was likely copied from an exemplar) many other hands appear in the book. Two are particularly recognisable, A1 and A2, both of which can be dated between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Terence, A1

CCCC MS 231, f.21r (A1)

Terence, A2

CCCC MS 231, f.99v (A2)

Although these annotations are often hard to read due to the rapidity of their ductus, they seem to serve a similar purpose to the glosses added by H2, which are mainly aimed at the explanation of Latin terms and grammar, rather than providing a commentary on the plays. In a few instances, H2 even includes different readings of the same passages, which seem to suggest that he had access to more than one exemplar.

Terence, exemplars

CCCC MS 231, f.38r

However, this is ultimately impossible to assess, since the provenance information about this volume does not trace it back to a specific institution. This prevents us from determining what sources the scribe may have had access to, as well as who the intended audience of the book may have been. Our knowledge is limited to the fact that it was originally made on the continent, and brought to England around the sixteenth century, as is indicated by the current binding, which is typical of that period (and of Cambridge/Oxford).

In sum, the Corpus Terence offers an intriguing portrait of the use of classical texts as reference works and study tools during the Middle Ages. Whilst it seems likely that the book was used in support of the learning of Latin grammar, it continued to be valued and consistently consulted by generations of readers from the time of its production until its arrival at the Parker Library.

Carlotta Barranu



MS 373, f. 24r

This little early twelfth-century manuscript belonged to Matilda (c.1102-1167), daughter of Henry I of England, who married the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V, in 1114. The text is a unique account of the imperial family, probably made in Würzburg. The picture here shows the first medieval emperor, Charlemagne, crowned in Rome on Christmas Day, 25 December 800.



Last year the Parker Library acquired a volume that once belonged to Archbishop Matthew Parker: the Apocrypha from the Bishops’ Bible. Curiously enough, it looks like it was never meant to be housed in the Library, as it was not among the books Parker bequeathed to the College. Instead, it was bought from a Sotheby’s auction, and now represents the newest, and arguably most obscure, item of the collection. As it is part of a five-volume set of the Bible, one would perhaps expect it to be a voluminous tome, but in reality it is instead rather little (203x145mm). A lavishly decorated binding makes up for its modest dimensions, presenting gold-stamped foliage and gauffered edges. It also contains one of the most puzzling features of the volume: two initials on both front and back boards, reading ES. Despite the efforts of more than one scholar, these are still waiting to be deciphered (and the Library welcomes any suggestions…!). These are also specific to our copy: the other three traceable volumes of the set (at the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and the private collection of the Duke of Rutland) do not present any initials embossed on their bindings.


Unfortunately, we only know very little about our book since it left Parker in 1575, but some clues of its whereabouts can be traced thanks to the annotations found on its flyleaves and contents page. These seem to suggest that it was in Oxford between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, as one signature reads ‘:Jo: :Prideaux:’, which likely refers to John Prideaux, rector of Exeter College (1578-1650), and another is ‘Robert Gregory C.C.C. Oxon.’, which refers to a student of Corpus Christi College (1819-1911). Given Prideaux and Gregory’s scholastic interest, it is only fitting that they would own a book such as the Apocrypha (although there is no evidence to suggest they knew it was indeed Parker’s own copy!).

Since the American volumes do not have the same signatures, the set probably split at an early stage, but it is impossible to say why and when. In fact, not much more is known of the dwellings of the book prior to Prideaux, or between him and Gregory. One may speculate that Parker left it to his son John, as some (unnamed) books are listed in Parker’s will as part of John’s inheritance. John also had a connection with Christ Church, Oxford, which may explain how the book travelled from one city to the other. The book then must have left the city (possibly) around the end of the nineteenth century, as our Fellow Librarian, Dr Christopher de Hamel, identified the bookplate on the inside of the front board as being that of the Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945), who had no obvious connections to Oxford. One last clue may be hiding behind a very faint inscription just under Gregory’s signature, dated 1794. But for now, we can only hope to keep adding pieces to this fascinating jigsaw.

Carlotta Barranu


CCCC MS 7, f. 121r


This manuscript comprises chronicles and records of benefactions to St Albans Abbey, compiled in St Albans in the early fifteenth century. The picture here of the abbot and his monks illustrates the account of the death of John de la Moote, abbot of St Albans 1396-1401, who died on 11 November 1401.