It just so happened this year that the Open Cambridge weekend clashed with the Audit and Audit Dinner which meant that Friday was a very busy day in the library. No sooner had we seen the last visitor out of the door than this year’s Auditor turned up, a distinguished professor from Gonville and Caius College.
Under the terms of an indenture devised by Matthew Parker, our principal donor, in 1574, we are required to perform an audit once a year, checking that all the books that he gave to the college are still here and that we haven’t lost any.
If six manuscripts in folio, eight in quarto, or twelve in lesser sizes were lost through ‘supine negligence’ the whole collection, together with the plate given by Parker, was … to be surrendered to Gonville and Caius College within the space of a month.
M. R. James, CCC Catalogue, p. xii
No pressure then.
Nowadays it’s a rather ceremonial occasion. The Auditor turns up with a list of books that he wants to see. This year our Auditor had been using Gonville and Caius’ copy of Parker’s Register and he had compiled a wishlist of manuscripts and early printed books. It’s pretty easy to identify the manuscripts from their titles in the Register but the printed books proved more challenging: Aristotle, Opera philosophica could have been any one of several volumes, so we were kept on our toes up and down the stairs and ladders fetching the volumes.
But everything was present to the Auditor’s satisfaction, so we were able to have our Audit Dinner in the evening!