Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (VII)




B.9.7, S. Athanasii Tractatus

B.9.7, p.1

This volume, written by Emmanuel Bobeni of Monembasia, is the manuscript the Library has owned for the longest time and was given to the college by John Christopherson, Master and Bishop of Chichester who died in 1558 . It was mentioned by Thomas James in Ecloga Oxonio-Cantabrigiensis as being at Trinity in 1600. Trinity’s manuscript collection was further developed in the first quarter of the 17th century by major donations from Archbishop Whitgift in 1604, Edward Stanhope in 1608, Thomas Nevile in 1611-12 and George Willmer in 1608-14. Together, these four men donated a total of 329 manuscripts.

B.5.1, Bible

B.5.1, f.245v

This 12th-century Bible was once at St Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire. The featured page shows the beginning of the Eusebian canons. Eusebius was a scholar who lived in Caesarea and who devised a way of comparing the texts of the four Gospels. The system was typically displayed within architectural-style columns headed by the name of the Gospel. Eusebius divided each Gospel into numbered sections and recorded similar passages in parallel across the columns, enabling cross-referencing.

B.1.30, Isidore

B.1.30, p.47

On the page illustrated here from a volume of the works of Isidore, the scribe has written the letter Z backwards. This would seem to be in order to accommodate the rest of the lettering in red (Zacharias & Elisabeth ambo) within the column. It may be compared with the Z for Zacharias, which was written correctly on p. 19 of the same volume.

Fragments of a 10th-century service book were originally bound in with this manuscript. They can be viewed here.

B.2.35, St Iohannes Chrysostomus super Epistolam ad Hebraeos, etc

B.2.35, f. 43r

This 12th-century volume contains a number of folios where repairs made to the vellum are evident. These repairs were made prior to the writing of the text and the scribe has written around them. There are other examples on f.11r and f.51r.

Parchment was made from animal skin (usually cow or sheep). Its production involved several stages: washing and soaking the skins, scraping away excess hair and then stretching the membrane on a frame in order for it to dry. Holes in the skins sometimes split when the skins were stretched. Since parchment was expensive these holes were usually mended by the parchment maker. The shape of the mending holes on this page indicates that the repair was made by the parchment maker (and not the scribe) as the holes made by the needle have been pulled into oval shapes as part of the drying process.

The entire Wren Digital Library can be viewed here.





Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (VI)




R.7.31, Commonplace Book of Edward VI

This book is in the hand of King Edward VI, son of King Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward succeeded his father in 1547 and this book was written soon after. It is a collection of scriptural passages against idolatry which were copied into French for his uncle, the Duke of Somerset (the Lord Protector). Edward was drawing on a model for royal behaviour from the Biblical story of Josiah, a young boy who, like Edward, became King at an early age. Josiah was celebrated later in life for eradicating idolatrous cults. This identification with Josiah was in tune with the determination during Edward’s reign to continue the establishment of Protestantism as the official faith in England.

R.17.22, Missal

This 15th-century missal contains many full page illuminations (for example, on f.8r, f.98v and f.181v) . A missal is a liturgical book containing all instructions and texts needed for the celebration of the Mass. It was donated to the Library along with R.17.23 in 1909. These texts were not, therefore, catalogued by M.R. James.

R.3.17, French Translation of Raymond of Poitiers

This is a unique copy of The Romans of Partenay, or of Lusignen : otherwise known as the Tale of Melusine which was originally written in the late 14th century, probably in Latin but translated into French soon after. It relates the story of Melusine – part woman, part serpent – whose legends are particularly associated with northern France. The manuscripts also contains indications of ownership on the front and back flyleaves including that of Beaupré Bell who gave the manuscript to the library. A 16th-century hand at the end of the volume has written: “When ye haue rede your fyll delyuer me agane with good wyll.”

O.2.40, Miscellanea from Kirkby Bellars

This volume is from the Augustinian Priory of Kirky Bellars in Leicestershire and is one of the small number of medieval texts in the Library that contain dateable material [1482-97]. It is the commonplace book of William Wymondham, canon who signed and dated items within the text: for example across the top of ff154v-155r (illustrated), on page 51v (1492) and 144ar (1482). Some of the diagrams showing the position of the signs of the zodiac (ff.61-102) are also dated, the latest being for the year 1484 (though there are some later additions). There are also several tracts between 9v and 58 copied in 1492 (f.51v).

Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (V)





Recent additions to the Digital Library include an Italian poem printed in the sixteenth century, a musical score by C. Hubert Parry, an eighteenth-century notebook and an album of photographs from the First World War.

Grylls.6.218, Germini sopra quaranta meretrice della citta di Firenze


A poem in octaves, I Germini, is a burlesque take on the game of Tarot, and describes 40 of the 92 cards that made up the whole set in the Florentine version of the game. In the original game, these cards represented a varied series of characters (the Madman, the Pope, the Emperor…), and sometimes portrayed the city’s noble women. In this version, the situation is inverted, and the women portrayed are actually prostitutes. It is likely that contemporary readers would have recognised some Florentine noblewomen behind the comical descriptions. This text also holds a particular place in the history of card games, as it reports the exact order of the germini which remained unchanged until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the game disappeared from Italy.

R.2.48, Autograph Score of ‘Blest Pair of Sirens’


Parry’s score was presented to the Library in 1891, three years after the first performance by the Bach Choir at St James’ Hall in London on 17th May 1887 in a concert to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. It was conducted by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford who, earlier in his career, had been the organist of Trinity College and who had commissioned the piece. The composition was based on Milton’s ode, ‘To a Solemn Musick’. The Library also owns the autograph copy of Milton’s manuscript (R.3.4) containing this ode (page 4).

R.2.45, William Bowyer, Varia

R.2.45, ff.5v-6r

This small notebook of miscellany was possibly kept by the printer, William Bowyer (1699-1777). It contains a fascinating collection of material including recipes, ‘stories’, receipts and memoranda. The recipes include a seed cake (12r), blacking for shoes, lip salve, and a remedy for the bite of a mad dog (at the bottom of f.6r). It passed into the possession of John Nichols (1745-1826), Bowyer’s apprentice and business partner who inherited the printing business on Bowyer’s death. Under successive generations of the Nichols family, the printing business became well-established and particularly well known for producing books of antiquarian interest.

G.13.112, Album of Photographs of the 1st Eastern General Hospital

This album of photographs of the 1st Eastern General Hospital was given to the library by Myfanwy Griffiths in 1946. She was a relative (probably a daughter) of Colonel Joseph Griffiths (1863-1945), a surgeon at Addenbrooke’s who was instrumental in the establishment of the Hospital and its Commander. The album contains photos taken during the period in 1914 when the Hospital was housed in Nevile’s Court and the surrounding grounds of the College. It later moved more permanently to a cricket ground shared by King’s and Clare Colleges which is now the site of University Library. For more about the hospital see our earlier blog.


Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (IV): Prince Henry’s Copybooks

Henry, Prince of Wales by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger oil on canvas, circa 1603,
NPG 2562, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Prince Henry Frederick (1594 –1612) was the son of James VI of Scotland (also later James I of England) and Anne of Denmark. In his short lifetime, he was regarded as a young man of great promise – the ideal Renaissance prince – but he died of typhoid fever at the age of only 18.

The boxed collection of eight copybooks, catalogued together as R.7.23*, date from around 1604-6 and provide a fascinating glimpse into the education of the young Prince. The most evocative book is perhaps volume 1 which contains handwriting practice:

R.7.23*, Vol 1, f.1 r

On later pages, Henry also practised letters, Latin phrases, flourishes and his signature (left). The right-hand side begins with a passage of Latin adapted from Cicero. Henry copied it out three more times down the length of the page. At the bottom there are two lines of apparently original composition (probably by his writing master of the time, Peter Bales) which translate as “indeed, in my opinion, Prince Henry has such a childish hand that he is hardly worthy of even mediocre praise as a writer”. However, a letter written to Henry by his father in 1604 praises the improvement of his handwriting [The Lost Prince, nos 12 and 20].

R.7.23*, Vol 1, ff. 5v-6r

The copybooks indicate that Henry had a fairly conventional early education. As well as practising Italic handwriting, he learned Latin, Greek and French and composed and translated Latin texts. Volume 6 contains a series of Latin exercises by the Prince, preceded by a letter from his tutor exhorting him to emulate the learning of Alexander the Great. Like most schoolboys, Henry’s pages sometimes included smudges and crossings out!

R.7.23*, Vol 6, ff. 8v-9r

Volume 7 contains a printed volume, originally in French with an English translation and then translated by Henry into Latin alongside the printed text.

R.7.23*, Vol 7, ff. 8v-9r

The French ambassador writing in 1606 described Henry as spending two hours a day studying, but the rest of his time in physical exercise [Strong, 66]. As he grew older, Henry’s education was broadened to include other subjects such as mathematics, music and history. He also showed great interest in naval and military matters, and enthusiasm for chivalric pursuits. Henry became a generous patron of the arts and his tragically early death was deeply felt and gave rise to much literature – particularly in sermons and verse – mourning the loss. Editions of some of these works can also be consulted in the College Library. After Henry’s death, his brother became heir to the throne and was crowned Charles I in 1626.

The copybooks were kept by Adam Newton (d. 1630) who was Henry’s tutor from 1599 and later his secretary. The volumes were bound, probably in 1610, in white velum and tooled with gold. They were given to the College by Newton’s son, Sir Henry Puckering (c.1619-1701) in 1691.

Further Reading:

Catherine MacLeod, The Lost Prince: The Life & Death of Henry Stuart, National Portrait Gallery (London, 2012)

Roy Strong, Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance (London, 1986)

Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (III)

B.3.32_f004rB.2.17, f.37vO.7.35_f033vO.2.34. f.1r179_o-5-5_f083v

Recent additions to the Wren Digital Library include a volume from the Benedictine Cathedral Priory in Canterbury (Christ Church), a 15th century volume of sermons on the Gospels, a book of alchemy once owned by Dr Dee, several Greek texts and a beautifully ornamented theological text.

B.3.32, Augustini et Aliorum Sermones

B.3.32, f.4r

This manuscript is written in a script identified by Dr Teresa Webber of Trinity as the ‘Christ Church style’ and indicates that the training of scribes that took place within the community of the Priory. Other examples include B.3.5 and B.5.28. In a period of considerable production (1090-1120) these scribes worked alongside those who had been trained elsewhere – for example in manuscript O.4.34 – and those who employed a combination of styles (for example in R.15.22).

B.2.17, Sermons on the Gospels in English

B.2.17, f.37v
B.2.17, f.37v

This volume contains a number of Wycliffite sermons. It was given to the Library by Thomas Nevile, but prior to that belonged to William Chark, a puritan preacher, religious controversialist and ejected fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge.

O.7.35, Alchemica

O.7.35, f033v
O.7.35, f33v

This volume is from the library of the Tudor physician, Dr John Dee. He owned one of the greatest private libraries of 16th century England which he claimed comprised over 3000 books and 1000 manuscripts. Dee’s library catalogue is also at Trinity College (O.4.20). The featured page of this Book of Alchemy has a diagram of a furnace.

O.2.34, Fragmenta Graeca, etc

O.2.34, f.1r

There are over forty medieval Greek manuscripts in the Wren Library, many of which have now been digitised. They can be found by searching the online catalogue using the search term ‘language’ and selecting ‘Greek’. The featured volume was formerly bound with O.8.33 and also contains a page of astrological text in English (f. i).

O.5.5, Vigilius Thapsensis etc

O.5.5, f.83v

This manuscript was produced, probably in northern France, during the 14th century. As well as beautiful ornamented borders, it also contains several larger illuminations. M. R. James commented ‘It is unusual to find so sumptuous a copy of comparatively uncommon patristic tracts’.

Sources, Further Reading and Useful Links:

Webber, T., ‘Script and Manuscript Production at Christ Church’ in Canterbury and the Norman Conquest: Churches, Saints and Scholars 1066-1109, Eales, R. and Sharpe, R. (eds), London (1995), pp. 145-158.

The Pinakes website for Greek manuscripts.

Bromide and champagne: a new glimpse of Housman at Trinity

A. E. Housman, portrait drawing by William Rothenstein, Trinity College Cambridge

A. E. Housman lived in Trinity College for the last 25 years of his life, following his appointment as Professor of Latin at Cambridge in 1911. A newly discovered collection of 53 hitherto unknown letters to his godson reveals much about life in College between the wars. While a student at Oxford in 1887-81, Housman developed an infatuation for his contemporary Moses Jackson, and his disappointment that the love was unrequited is often seen to have contributed to the wistfulness of many of Housman’s poems. Moses Jackson subsequently married and emigrated to India, but he remained in contact with Housman, who became godfather to Jackson’s fourth son, Gerald. Gerald Jackson kept his godfather’s letters, and they have recently been acquired from his family as a major addition to Trinity’s Housman collections.


The letters span Housman’s final decade, from 1927 to 1936. Gerald Jackson, born in 1900, had left university to undertake geological fieldwork in the copper mines of Northern Rhodesiaimg_9356. In 1927 he was considering pursuing a research degree in geology, and wrote to his godfather for advice on studying in Cambridge. Housman was characteristically diffident, writing that ‘it is no good asking my opinion and advice, which are valueless, as I stick to my job and know hardly anything about scientific studies here’. He nevertheless made arrangements with Tresillian Nicholas, the geologist who was about to be appointed Senior Bursar of Trinity, for Jackson to be kept a table in the College laboratory. In the end Jackson ended up studying at the Royal School of Mines, part of Imperial College London, but spent a few months at Trinity from November 1930, staying in B3 New Court. A letter from this time demonstrates Housman’s wish to be welcoming while following correct protocol with D. A. Winstanley, the Senior Tutor: ‘once you are admitted it will not be possible for me to ask you to the High Table, so will you come and dine with me in Hall on Monday, the first day I have free; and I will ask Winstanley to put off your fall in the social scale till afterwards.’

Jackson completed his D.Sc. in London, but Housman continued to profess ignorance whenever Jackson sent him some of his geological writings: ‘what it chiefly teaches me is the wealth of the English language, and my ignorance of it . . . full of beautiful new words, both long and short, of which my favourite is “ong” . . . The vocabulary, like the English army at Bannockburn, was “gay yet fearful to behold”.’

rs3830_tcl003404-hprHousman was a diligent and generous godfather, supporting his godson financially in order to enable him to prolong his decision of a final career. From 1932 Jackson trained in medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital, and he visited Housman in Trinity from time to time over the following years. Housman was always keen to pass on pieces of College news, and these give an air of the Combination Room conversation of the 1930s. In February 1933, Housman was appalled that ‘the Lent races are just over, in which Third Trinity was bumped by Fitzwilliam Hall, a disgrace unknown in history’, while the following month ‘the bronze Hermes in Whewell’s Court had his body painted black and his face yellow on the last night of term’. Later in 1933 Housman became ill for a prolonged period, but he had recovered sufficiently by the end of the year to eat 52 oysters on New Year’s Eve.

In 1935, following further medical problems, Housman moved from his rooms on K staircase of Whewell’s Court to B2 Great Court, a ground-floor set, ‘exceedingly comfortable, and the bathroom, which the College has equipped at its own expense, strikes the beholder dumb with admiration’. Although wisteria growing outside the window made it rather dark, the location was convenient for the Hall and for the lecture room (which is now the College bar). Before asking Jackson to send him a smoked ox tongue from Fortnum & Mason, Housman informed the trainee doctor of his own preferred medicine: ‘My walking is weak and slow, and for getting to sleep I am using diminishing doses of bromide, supplemented with champagne.’ Despite these sound preventative measures, Housman’s health continued to deteriorate, and following a period in the Evelyn Nursing Home, he briefly returned to College late in 1935, where he died on 30 April 1936. His last letter to his godson thanked him for sending a carefully chosen box of sweets to the staff of the nursing home on his behalf.


The letters were purchased by the College through the generosity of an alumnus with particular interests in Housman. Harry Richardson Creswick was University Librarian in Cambridge, and did much to expand the UL’s holdings of Housman manuscripts in the 1950s and 60s. He kindly left a significant portion of his estate to Trinity, where it is used for the purchase of rare books and manuscripts.

For a further photograph of Housman, see this post. The autograph manuscript of A Shropshire Lad is available to view on the Wren Digital Library.

Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (II)

R.3.15_f066rB.15.27_f090rB.15.18, f115rB.2.25_f001rpage_432

The latest additions to the Wren Digital Library include a manuscript containing works by Chaucer (R.3.15), a volume given to Trinity by Jonathan Dryden (B.15.27), two manuscripts of Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection (O.7.47 and B.15.18), a volume from Christ Church Cathedral Priory (B.2.25) and a medieval encyclopedia (R.9.10).

R.3.15: Chaucer etc

This late-15th/early 16th century volume is written in a number of hands and includes copies of most of the Canterbury Tales as well as Piers Plowman. The Library has other copies of both texts (R.3.3 and B.15.17). The featured page has the opening of the Reeve’s Tale: “At Trompyngton not fer from Cambrige/Ther goth a broke and over that a brige/Upon the whiche broke there stondeth a mylle/And this is verey soth that I yow telle”

R.3.15, f.66r

B.15.27, Hugo de Sacramentis

This work by Hugh of St Victor – De sacramentis christianae fidei – is one of a number donated to the College by Jonathan (John) Dryden. It is a theological and mystical text. An original medieval cloth cover protects the decorated initial at the start of book 2.

B.15.27, f.90r

B.15.18, Walter Hilton. Scala Perfectionis

The Library has two manuscript copies of Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection (O.7.47 and B.15.18). Based on the internal evidence provided in the colophon (a statement giving evidence of authorship), manuscript B.15.18 has been dated to c. 1499. The text is also annotated throughout by James Grenehalgh who also worked on other extant copies of this text at the end of the 15th century.

B.15.18, f115r
B.15.18, f.115r

B.2.25, Holcot super librum sapientiae

B.2.25 is one of more than eighty manuscripts in the Library which originate from the Benedictine Cathedral Priory of Christ Church in Canterbury. The majority were bequeathed by John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury between 1583 and 1604, but this one was given by another donor, Thomas Nevile (Master of Trinity 1593–1615). The volume begins with the decorated initial and border below, but also contains some plainer initials decorated with faces (eg f.225r).

B.2.25, f.001r
B.2.25, f.001r

R.9.10, Isidori Etymologiae

The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville were compiled in the early 7th century. The encyclopedia comprises 20 books. Some books focus on etymology (the study of words), but others cover topics as varied as mathematics, birds and animals, buildings and music. This manuscript dates from the 13th or 14th century. The page shown – written in a tiny hand – is from the end of the volume and is part of the (incomplete) index.

R.3.10, f.225v
R.3.10, f.225v


Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (I)[1][2]_titlepage

Items added to the Wren Digital Library over the past few weeks include a French translation of St Augustine’s De Civitate Dei (R.17.23), a volume which probably belonged to Thomas Becket (B.3.12), an anthology containing marginal commentaries in decorative shapes (O.3.57) and two printed plays by Shakespeare from the Capell Collection (Capell *.19[1] and Capell *.22[2]).

R.17.23: Augustine, De Civitate Dei, Books 11-22

This manuscript is a French translation of Augustine’s City of God by Raoul de Praelles. It was begun in 1371 and completed in September 1375 (f.424v). It contains floral borders and several fine illuminations. St Augustine is depicted on f.1r and f.2v.


B.3.12: Glossed books of Joshua, Ruth, Judges and Chronicles

This volume was written in either Paris or Sens, probably for Thomas Becket during his exile in France between 1164 and 1170. It later came to Christ Church, Canterbury. It contains many fine ornamented initials including the one below, at the start of the Book of Ruth, which includes an ape blowing a horn and a naked man playing the fiddle.


O.3.57, Horace, Opera

Works by several classical authors including Horace are contained in this manuscript which may have been owned by Dr John Dee. It is notable for the elaborate shapes in which some of the marginal commentary on Horace’s work is contained (ff.21r-69r). These shapes include letters of the alphabet, vases and fish.


Capell.*.19[1], Shakespeare, Rape of Lucrece and Capell.*.22[2], Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis.

The Rape of Lucrece was printed in London by P(eter) S(hort) for John Harrison in 1598 and Venus and Adonis was printed by I. P. in London in 1620. There is only one other known copy of each of these editions. Pages from these volumes have been included in the Shakespeare Documented online exhibition.[1]_titlepage
Capell.*.19[1], titlepage