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'500 Years of Treasures from Oxford' on display in Washington, D.C

Oxonians were treated to a tour of Corpus Christi College's library treasures at a special exhibition in America marking the college’s 500th anniversary.

The ‘500 Years of Treasures from Oxford’ exhibition at Washington, DC’s Folger Shakespeare Library comprises 52 books and objects from the Oxford college’s library.

Reflecting the Renaissance founding of Corpus, its library reflects many sources of learning. These range from Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon and English books and manuscripts to one of Britain's most important collections of Hebrew texts.  

While many Oxford colleges could mount a similar exhibition, it is quite impressive Corpus actually did. All who saw the exhibition were the beneficiaries of this leap into the rarely done.

Prior to the launch, local Corpus Old Members were able to attend a private viewing, but on April 15 Oxonians were given a tour led by Caroline Duroselle-Melish the Andrew W Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints at the Folger.

Dr Duroselle-Melish not only detailed the history of the books and manuscripts on display, but also the larger context of the times.

She explored why Corpus' library includes Hebrew texts and what they tell us about translating the Old Testament, and Oxford's medieval Jewish community.

In addition, she explored the importance of materials and paper and book binding, and what can be learnt from the finished product. This included how materials would often be repurposed, the importance of annotations from long-past students and fellows, and how today individual scribes can be identified by how books were made.

While everyone has a favourite item, mine were some handwritten notes by Corpus’ President John Rainolds. It was Rainolds who first proposed the King James Bible and his notes on its creation were in English, Latin, and Greek!

While none of us present were from Corpus, we did learn a lot more about the importance of that college to Oxford and the wider world.

The exhibition runs at the Folger until the end of April before moving to the Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History in New York in mid-May. 

Sean Denniston (Univ, 1987), Chair, OUS Washington, DC