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.


MS 61, f. 1v

This is the finest surviving copy of Chaucer’s epic Trojan romance, Troilus and Criseyde, illuminated in London c.1415-20, perhaps for the royal prisoner in the Tower of London, Charles d’Orléans (1394-1465). The frontispiece shows Geoffrey Chaucer himself declaiming his poem to an aristocratic party, gathered in a landscape. Chaucer himself died on 25 October 1400.


September Image

CCCC MS 582, inside front cover

Matthew Parker had been chaplain to Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. His close relationship with their daughter, Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth, had an important part to play in his life, She was born on 7 September 1533. This coloured engraving of Queen Elizabeth was pasted by Parker inside his own copy of the statutes of Corpus Christi College.


August Image- MS 394, f. 15r

CCCC MS 394, f. 15r



This late thirteenth-century Apocalypse was owned by Thomas Markaunt (c.1382-1439), senior proctor of the University and Fellow of Corpus Christi College. The pictures here show the elders around the Throne of God. By his will of November 1439, Markaut bequeathed 76 books to the College. The Apocalypse was no. 72, valued at 2 shillings. The bequest was received by Corpus on 1 August 1440. MS 394, folio 15r.

MS 22, f. 166v

Eagles teaching an eaglet to look at the sun. CCCC MS 22, f. 166v

Summer has finally properly arrived in England, and the sun has made a stronger-than-usual appearance in Cambridge. While we humans need to dust off our sunglasses, the eagle, as described by Isidore of Seville in the early 7th century, is capable of staring directly into the sun.

In fact, the eagle tests its young by holding them up to the sun, and if they cannot look right at it, they are cast out of the nest. This brought about the medieval allegorical reading of the eagle’s ability to look directly into the sun as analogous to Christ’s ability to see the full glory of God. Only the most worthy souls can be lifted up by angels and perceive the whole power of God.

This illustration is from CCCC MS 22, a collection of Isidore of Seville’s works, which includes one of the oldest extant copies of an illustrated bestiary made in England. It probably dates from c. 1150-70, and may have been produced in the North of England.