Christ's College Old Library

Welcome to Christ’s College Old Library Timeline! From 11th century manuscripts to Modernist first editions, this easy-to-use visual guide highlights our key treasures as well as charting the significant history of the Library building itself. New stories are constantly being added, so keep visiting the timeline to find out more!

1080-01-01 07:39:59

The collections at Christ's College begin...

Chronologically, the Old Library's collections begin with this manuscript of the Greek Gospels, thought to have been produced around the late 11th century. Written on 218 folio leaves of thick vellum, and decorated with rather crudely drawn initials of blue, red and green, the manuscript belongs to an important class of documents known as lectionaries. A lectionary is a text containing passages from Scripture which have been rearranged into separate sections, or lessons, appointed to be read according to the cycles of the liturgical year. With the advent of scholarly biblical criticism in the nineteenth century, evidence from early Greek lectionaries proved critical in tracing the history of the transmission of the New Testament. The Christ’s manuscript is particularly noteworthy since as well as containing the Gospels in full there are also four passages from the Septuagint version (an ancient translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) and a further four from the Pauline Epistles among the services of the Holy Week. Such remarkable features were documented in 1859 by one of the leading Victorian textual critics of the New Testament, Rev. Frederick Ambrose Scrivener, who described the Christ’s manuscript as ‘a document of singular importance’. A note in Latin on the flyleaf reveals that it was presented to Christ’s College in 1654 by Francis Taylor of Dover, a former student at Christ’s, who was at that time one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral.

1305-01-02 19:42:04

Alice de Vere's Book of Hours

Books of Hours were compendia of psalms, Bible verses, hymns, antiphons, and prayers for private devotional use by laymen. The typical book of hours was an abbreviated form of the breviary which contained the Divine Office recited in monasteries. It was developed for lay people who wished to incorporate elements of monasticism into their devotional life. However, with their frequently lavish illuminations, ownership of a Book of Hours also became a status symbol for medieval powerbrokers. This is the earliest example of a Book of Hours in the possession of Christ's College. An inscription on the manuscript, which features historiated initials and stylised foliage interlaced with grotesques, drolleries and animals, identifies the former owner as Alice de Vere, Countess of Oxford (d.1312). The manuscript itself was probably produced at a nearby scriptorium in the Fens.

1430-07-01 08:09:49

French Book of Hours

This stunningly beautiful Book of Hours was produced in the diocese of Nantes in Brittany in the first half of the fifteenth century. It contains 16 lavish full-page miniatures, and was evidently commissioned by an extremely wealthy patron. In 2014, this manuscript featured in the Library's 'Sponsor-a-Book' scheme. The generous donation of a Christ's alumnus ensured that this unqiue treasure could undergo a course of thorough conservation, including a complete re-binding. The manuscript has since been completely digitised and can be viewed online by clicking on the link below.

1436-07-03 16:51:22

God's House is established by William Byngham

Christ's College was first established as God's House in 1437 by William Byngham, a London parish priest, for training grammar school masters. For more information on William Byngham, see the link below.

1443-05-31 07:39:59

Foundress Lady Margaret Beaufort is born at Bletsoe Castle

Margaret Beaufort, countess of Richmond and Derby (1443–1509), royal matriarch, was born on 31 May 1443. Later in life, following the death of her third husband, and the accession of her son as King Henry VII, Beaufort turned her energies to good causes. No doubt at the suggestion of her confessor, Bishop John Fisher, she decided to enlarge God's House. In 1505, with a royal charter from the King, the College was re-founded as Christ's College. Lady Margaret has been honoured ever since as the Foundress.

1446-07-01 00:00:00

God's House is granted its royal licence from Henry VI

Shortly after receiving its Royal Licence from Henry VI in 1446, God's House was forced to move from its original site as this was needed for the King's new project (what was to become King's College). God's House moved to its present site in 1448 and in the same year received a second Royal Licence. This licence may be regarded as the Foundation Charter. Click below for a list of the Proctors of God's House.

1482-01-01 12:22:17

Euclid, 'Elementa'

A foundational work in the history of mathematics, Euclid's 'Elements', thought to have been written around 300 B.C., was one of the first texts to be printed following the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-fifteenth century. Thanks to Charles Lesingham Smith (1806-1878), the Old Library is fortunate enough to have a copy of the very first printed edition, produced in Venice in 1482 by Erhard Ratdolt. Ratdolt was active in Venice from 1476 to 1486, and afterwards in Augsburg. In this first edition, he skillfully solved the problem of printing geometric diagrams with a variety of innovations in layout, typography, mixing type and woodcuts.

1493-09-01 00:00:00

Hartmann Schedel, 'Nuremberg chronicle'

Published in 1493, the Nuremberg chronicle is one of the most famous incunabula, a term used for books printed in the period up to 1501. Epic in scope, the chronicle describes all of history from creation to contemporary times. It is a truly beautiful item, illustrated by more than a thousand woodcut prints designed in a Nuremberg workshop, and compiled from a myriad of sources by physician and bibliophile Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514). The copy at Christ’s is one of 400 extant examples in Latin. It was presented by Ferdinand Pulton, a Fellow of the College from 1556 to 1557.

1505-01-02 19:42:04

Tudor playing-cards

Before the advent of wood-block printing, playing-cards were hand-painted and affordable only by the wealthy. Packs of cards at this early period were unlike the standardised packs of today; the names of the cards, the signs and the number in a pack differed one from another. The three 'court' cards of royal characters in English packs of cards still show the court dress of Henry VII’s regin, and the Knave displayed here is a rare survival of a hand-painted court card from the time of Lady Margaret Beaufort (mother of Henry VII and founder of Christ’s College). The other cards date from c.1515. Popular card games in Lady Margaret’s time and throughout the Tudor period included piquet and écarté. The Tudor cards were found in the Muniment Room in Christ’s College during renovation works in the 1960s and now reside in the College Library.

1505-07-01 00:00:00

God's House is refounded as Christ's College by Lady Margaret Beaufort

In 1505, Lady Margaret Beaufort refounded God's House as Christ's College. She purchased the manors of Malton and Roydon, and her accounts show a substantial expenditure of £1625 on building work between 1505 and 1509.

Christ's College Old Library

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