Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category


MS 161, f. 1r (JPEG)

Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 161, f. 1r.

The Parker Library is pleased to invite contributions to a symposium celebrating the launch of its newly redesigned online platform. It will be an occasion to reflect on the impact of the digital humanities on manuscript studies, bringing together graduate students, researchers, and library professionals who work with or on manuscript books.


Thanks to a collaboration with Stanford University, Parker Library on the Web 2.0 will be live in January 2018, presenting new features such as IIIF compatibility, user-based transcription bubbles, a Mirador interface allowing comparison with other digitised resources, and an updated Zotero-linked bibliography accompanying each manuscript. The website will also be released under a Creative-Commons Non-Commercial Licence, meaning that all of the images provided on Parker Library on the Web 2.0 will be free for download and personal study.


MS 20, f. 16v (detail, JPEG)

Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 20, f. 16v.

To weigh the potential and the implications of such a platform, the symposium will address questions about the methodologies used in the study of medieval manuscripts,how digitised surrogates and online tools influence our understanding of material objects, book circulation, and textual transmission, and how digital initiatives assist in the curation and preservation of physical collections. Whilst we encourage papers focusing on Parker manuscripts, we warmly welcome proposals discussing material hosted on similar platforms, such as (but not limited to) the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Biblissima, and the Digital Bodleian.

The symposium will take place in the Parker Library itself on 16th March 2018, and will feature an exhibition on some of its most famous treasures. Proposals of a maximum of 500 words for 20-minute papers should be submitted to Carlotta Barranu (cb841@cam.ac.uk) by 15th January 2018.




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CCC MS 180, f. 1r, detail


10- 11 April 2014

Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Following the success of last year’s Parker Library symposium and exhibition on Herbert of Bosham, it was decided to establish an annual event celebrating important but neglected figures in English medieval history.  Adam Easton (d.1397) is long overdue for serious scholarly attention.  The image shown here is from Easton’s copy of the De pauperie salvatoris of Richard FitzRalph, archbishop of Armagh (Parker Library MS 180).

The full conference programme and booking form are now available.

Please email the Parker Library staff if you have any questions.

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MS 180, f.1r

A two day conference on Adam of Easton will be held in the Parker Library on 10 & 11 April 2014. Speakers will include Anne Hudson, Lynda Dennison, Patrick Zutshi & Nicholas Vincent.

The full conference programme and application form will be available here in the early spring. In the meantime, please contact Dr Joan Greatrex with any questions.

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Our recent conference on Herbert of Bosham, secretary, confidant and biographer of Thomas Becket, was a great success with fascinating papers on the making of Herbert’s manuscripts, his Hebrew scholarship and his letters, on his relationship with Becket, and his connections with the court. The final paper of the conference, by organiser Michael Staunton, was on ‘Herbert and History’, which focused on Herbert’s conception and writing of history but his title also pointed to a clear theme running through the conference, namely how history has treated Herbert, his texts and his manuscripts.

John Allen Giles (1808-84)

John Allen Giles (1808-84)

There was much discussion of the discovery and loss of the manuscripts of his works, many of which are extant only in single witnesses, and of the role played by 19th-century librarians and editors in his posthumous reputation, notably the frighteningly prolific J. A. Giles, a Victorian clergyman and scholar who set up a printing press in his own house and trained local girls in typography in order to keep up with the stream of translations and editions of classical and medieval texts that poured forth from his pen.

Letter of Herbert of Bosham to John of Salisbury (CCCC MS 123, f. 53v)

Letter of Herbert of Bosham to John of Salisbury (CCCC MS 123, f. 53v)

The conference was accompanied by an exhibition of manuscripts. The Parker Library contains a number of important manuscripts relating to Becket and his circle since Matthew Parker was very interested in his martyred archiepiscopal predecessor, despite (or because of) Becket’s defiance of royal authority over ecclesiastical matters. As secretary, Herbert was responsible for writing many of Becket’s letters, but he also put together a collection of his own letters. The single surviving manuscript of his Epistolae, a fourteenth-century copy, is MS 123 in the Parker Library.

Herbert also produced a life of Becket called the Thomus (a pun on Thomas/tomus) which has been condemned by one modern biographer of Becket as ‘rambling and verbose‘. All the conference speakers agreed that Herbert never used one word where ten would do but as an eyewitness to many of the events he describes, Herbert’s account has been praised for its honesty by Becket’s most recent biographer, John Guy. In addition to manuscripts containing several extracts from Herbert’s life of Becket, the Parker Library also contains the only surviving copy of a Middle English verse life of Becket, written by a monk of Christ Church, Canterbury named Lawrence Wade. Wade’s poem, written in 1497, testifies to the continuing devotion to the saint, particularly at Canterbury. Wade also acknowledges Herbert’s Thomus as the major source for his own work:

Prologue of Lawrence Wade's Middle English Life of Thomas Becket, 1497 (MS 298, f.1v)

Prologue of Lawrence Wade’s Middle English Life of Thomas Becket, 1497 (MS 298, f.1v)

Wade’s prologue begins, ‘Here begynnyth the lyff off Seynt Thomas [bekett] off Cantorbury archbysshopp, translatyd in to our vulgar tonge owt off a boke callyd Thomys, by a brother of Christis Church in Cantorbury’. Less than fifty years after Wade’s hagiographical poem was written, the monastery at Christ Church was dissolved and Becket was condemned as a traitor. His controversial status during the Reformation is hinted at by the crossing out of ‘Seynt’, which is regularly seen in references to him in both manuscripts and printed books.

During the Reformation re-evaluation of Becket, this volume was owned by another of his successors as archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who, like Becket, lost his life amidst royal and ecclesiastical power struggles and was acclaimed a martyr by some and a traitor by others. Rather poignantly, his signature (‘Thomas Cantuariensis’) can be seen above the rubric on the opening leaf of the manuscript.

Opening rubric of MS 298 with the signature of Thomas Cranmer (f.1r)

Opening rubric of MS 298 with the signature of Thomas Cranmer (f.1r)

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The programme is now available on the library website for our forthcoming conference on the twelfth-century scholar and statesman Herbert of Bosham which will take place on the 15-16 April.

To register for the conference, please complete the registration form. For any further enquiries, please contact the library (parker-library@corpus.cam.ac.uk).

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Herbert of Bosham: A Medieval Polymath

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

15-16 April 2013

Herbert of Bosham

Herbert of Bosham (d. c. 1194) was Thomas Becket’s closest advisor, a diplomat and correspondent, a prolific historian, biblical commentator and Hebrew scholar, and he was responsible for one of the most elegant sets of illuminated books of his time. He was a participant in some of the most momentous events of the twelfth century. In his lifetime, Herbert felt he had been unjustly overlooked by posterity, and for over 800 years he has been largely neglected.

This is the first conference ever convened to honour his achievements: it brings together outstanding scholars from diverse disciplines – history, theology, manuscript studies, Jewish studies and art history – to examine the range of Herbert’s work and its relationship to the intellectual, ecclesiastical and political world of the twelfth century. Papers address such topics as Herbert’s manuscripts and their illustrations; his relationship to Thomas Becket and to the court; his biblical scholarship and contacts with Jewish scholars; and his work as historian and correspondent. The conference will include a dinner, and an exhibition in the Parker Library of original manuscripts by Herbert and his immediate circle.

Speakers will include Julie Barrau, Laura Cleaver, Christopher de Hamel, Anne Duggan, Eva de Visscher, Hugh Doherty, Sabina Flanagan, Michael Staunton, Nicholas Vincent, and Andrea Worm.

The conference is co-organised by Michael Staunton and Christopher de Hamel. Some overnight accommodation will be available in Corpus Christi College. To register, please complete the registration form. For any further information, email parker-library@corpus.cam.ac.uk.

The conference is supported by the Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections.

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AMARC is a friendly organisation which brings together all sorts of people with an interest in manuscripts and archives. Its meetings are one of the few opportunities for librarians, curators and conservators to meet up with scholars and researchers and find out what others are up to in an informal environment. It also produces an excellent Newsletter twice a year. Individual membership is a mere £10 a year.

Plug over. I recently attended this year’s AMARC winter meeting which was on the theme of Conserving Manuscripts and Archives in Oxford. It was an excellent opportunity for the two main organisations carrying out manuscript and archive conservation in Oxford, the Bodleian’s Department of Conservation and Collection Care and the Oxford Colleges’ Conservation Consortium, to showcase some of their recent work, in the morning through presentations and in the afternoon via visits to the conservation studios.

The two organisations were introduced by their heads. It was great to hear Jane Eagan talk about the Oxford Colleges’ Consortium which is modelled on the Cambridge one, based in Corpus. The roles of the two consortia workshops are very similar; emphasis is placed on preservation as well as conservation, on making sure that the environmental conditions in the historic libraries that they serve are suitable for the storage and display of archive and manuscript materials. Virginia Lladó-Busán, the Bodleian’s head of conservation, seemed remarkably sanguine about being responsible for the conservation of some 9-10 million items. She talked about the various dimensions of conservation work within a major research library; the department both provides practical services and carries out scholarly research, often in collaboration with curators and scholars.

Four Oxford conservators then gave presentations on recent projects. From the consortium, Victoria Stevens talked about the conservation of four Buttery Books from University College. These are fascinating documents listing the payments made by members of college for food and drink. They are extremely useful, among other things, for determining which members were actually present in the college at any one time. The Univ. Buttery Books date from the 1640s, at a time when Oxford was a key Royalist centre during the Civil War. They were obviously well-used working books with a distinctive tall, narrow shape and the Univ. ones were in terrible condition when they arrived in the workshop.

They had lost their bindings, their spines were distorted and many of their pages were in a very fragile state. In this blogpost, Victoria describes the early stages of the project. It is now half complete and in the afternoon, Victoria was able to show us two completed books with their new quarter tanned leather bindings and two still in their original state.

Also at the consortium, Katerina Powell described a project to rehouse several hundred fragments of medieval music manuscripts owned by Merton College.

Merton fragments and their new boxes

Merton fragments and their new boxes

Many were used as pastedowns or wrappers in Merton manuscripts or early printed books. They are listed in Rod Thomson’s 2009 catalogue of the Merton manuscripts. Katerina has produced a set of folders and boxes for the collection, balancing the need to provide secure and appropriate storage with the desire to keep the fragments accessible so that they can be used for teaching purposes.

Moving away from medieval manuscripts, Arthur Green of the Bodleian conservation department talked about the conservation of a set of wet-transfer copies from the Abinger Collection, an important collection of letters, papers and notebooks from the Godwin and Shelley families. Wet-transfer copying was a reprographic process patented by James Watt (of steam engine fame) in the 1780s in which a document written with special ink was inserted in a press with a thin sheet of paper. The text was thus transferred onto the thin sheet which was translucent enough to be read from the other side, with the words the right way round. These thin sheets obviously present a particular challenge to conservators due to their fragility and the particular chemicals employed in the dye and the paper. The loose sheets are now conserved in fascicules which allows them to be handled and read safely.

The final speaker, Sallyanne Gilchrist, talked about an often overlooked aspect of the conservator’s role: preparing for and installing exhibitions. Her case-study was the enormously ambitious loan of 69 items for Love and Devotion, an exhibition of Persian manuscripts held at the State Library of Victoria in Australia in March-July 2012. Long before installation there was a enormous list of tasks including consolidating pigments and other repairs to the selected items, producing condition reports and profiles, making frames and cradles, planning crate layouts and supervising shipments. Regular communication with and intense visits from SLV staff helped to build good relationships between the key individuals involved and kept the process on track. The exhibition was a great success in Melbourne and a version of it has just opened at the Bodleian (until 28 April 2013).

Getting to the Bodleian conservation centre at Osney Mead was something of a challenge due to recent flooding…

Flooding on the road to Osney Mead

Flooding on the road to Osney Mead

… but whilst there we saw a variety of work, including this unfinished illuminated manuscript which provides valuable evidence of its process of manufacture.

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