The manuscripts of Corpus Christi College, Oxford present an extraordinary variety of items, from humanist texts associated with Erasmus to John Dee's alchemical books and many vernacular MSS. This is the first full catalogue, with a large number of illustrations.
The College of Corpus Christi, Oxford, was a 'Renaissance' institution both as to its foundation date (1517) and the intention of its founder, Richard Fox, bishop of Winchester. Both Fox himself and his choice as the College's first President, John Claymond, were friends of Erasmus, who approved of the foundation and especially of its library. Fox intended his foundation to be a conduit of Italian humanism to Oxford and to the English clergy. In itsextraordinary variety, this collection is a challenge to the cataloguer. Some manuscripts relate to the programme of the College's founder and first President, but most of the manuscripts reflect the particular interests of collectors from the late sixteenth century onwards. John Dee's books for example, mostly small, unpretentious and often fragmentary or made up of fragments, constitute a gold-mine for the historian of medieval chemistry and alchemy.These are supplemented by an important group of astronomical, arithmetical and medical texts. There is a substantial clutch of twelfth- and thirteenth-century manuscripts from Lanthony Priory. Noteworthy, too, is the large number of manuscripts in several vernaculars: Old and Middle English and French, Old Irish, Catalan, and even a few words of fifteenth-century Czech. The bindings of the Corpus manuscripts have been wholly neglected. Many books retain important medieval bindings, some as early as the twelfth century, and a substantial number of beautiful blind-stamped bindings of the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A special place in the collection is occupied by the approximately 1, 200 manuscript fragments, taken from bindings of books in the library in the late nineteenth century.