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Christ Church Library

Address. Christ Church, Oxford OX1 1DP [Map]
Telephone. (01865) 27 61 69
e-mail. [library@christ-church.ox.ac.uk]

Governing body or responsible institution. The Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford
Functions. Working library for members of Christ Church, a constituent college of the University of Oxford; research collections.
Subjects. All subjects for older material. Strong in music, theology, numismatics, early science and medicine, Hebrew studies.

Access. Modern books available to members of Christ Church only; research material available to bona fide scholars by prior appointment only. A letter of introduction may be required.
Special facilities. Microfilm reader-printer; photocopier. No photocopying of early printed material. Photographic work (usually done by the Bodleian Library's studio) by arrangement.
Travel directions. In central Oxford. Coaches from Victoria Coach Station London to Oxford (Queen's Lane). C. 15 minutes' walk from Oxford Railway Station. - No parking facilities.


1.1 Christ Church was founded by Henry VIII's chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, as Cardinal College, Oxford in 1525, re-using some of the buildings of the suppressed Augustinian priory of St Frideswide. It was refounded by Henry VIII after Wolsey's fall from power in 1529, and reconstituted in 1546 as Christ Church, a unique institution which is both a cathedral of the Church of England, and a college of the University of Oxford.

1.2 The first library was opened in about 1562, and was housed in the former dining hall of St Frideswide's, which was fitted out with lecterns bought secondhand from the medieval university library, whose books had been dispersed during the Reformation. Christ Church Library was refitted in the second decade of the 17th century. Bookpresses were installed on the model of those in the recently-founded Bodleian Library, the building was lavishly redecorated, and many new books were acquired. The work was paid for by a wealthy London lawyer, Otho Nicholson (d. 1622), who also made the first substantial benefaction of £100 in 1614. The driving force seems to have been Dr Thomas Thornton (1541-1629), a Canon of Christ Church. Thornton was also Master of the Library at Hereford Cathedral, and the surviving chained library at Hereford is known to have been very similar to that at Christ Church.

1.3 The library expanded steadily in the course of the 17th century, and received many gifts, typically small donations from members, but including larger bequests, notably some 800 books given by Robert Burton (1577-1640), author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, who was librarian from 1624. By the beginning of the 18th century the 17th-century chained library was full.

1.4 In 1717 work began on the present magnificent Baroque buildings, which were designed in emulation of the libraries of Trinity College, Cambridge and Trinity College, Dublin, and with the declared intention that Christ Church should have the finest library of any learned society in Europe. In the decades that followed, the collections expanded greatly as a consequence of bequests from wealthy alumni, including engravings, books, and music from Henry Aldrich (1647-1710), Dean of Christ Church from 1689. In 1722 a large collection of pamphlets was given by Lewis Atterbury (1656-1731). Some 2,000 books were left by William Stratford (1672-1729), a Canon of Christ Church, including works on mathematics, natural science, theology, law and history as well as some 16th-century English books. An even larger collection was given by William Wake (1657-1737), Archbishop of Canterbury. He bequeathed a number of books (in addition to papers and manuscripts), particularly strong in theology. Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery (1676-1731), left a collection including many works on medicine and science.

1.5 The library continued to acquire research material in the 19th and 20th centuries, principally books connected with Christ Church, but also general gifts from alumni. These have included presentation copies of books by William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), theological books from Francis Paget (1851-1911), Bishop of Oxford, and a collection of modern books, working papers and numerous early editions of the Vulgate given by Henry Julian White (1859-1934), Dean from 1920. A collection of liturgical books, including early editions and Books of Common Prayer, which belonged to Kenneth Gibbs (1856-1935), Archdeacon of St Albans, was presented to the library in 1946. Many of the working books of the 19th century are now regarded as special collections material, and are available to researchers.

1.6 The library is often associated with the name of Charles Dodgson (1832-1898, known as Lewis Carroll), who was sub-Librarian in the 19th century. There is a large collection of Carrolliana, including the first German edition of Alice in Wonderland (Leipzig 1869, printed from the settings of the edition London 1869) and other translations into German.

1.7 Since 1946 Christ Church Library has also been responsible for the administration of the historic library of the Oxford Regius Professors of Divinity, founded in 1681 by Richard Allestree (1619-1681), Canon of Christ Church, and Provost of Eton College (see below 4.2, Purcell). The Allestree Library contains approximately 3,000 books, almost all printed before 1700, mostly learned books with a bias towards theology, but including books on many other subjects, and a good number of them from Germany. 138 of these books formerly belonged to Allestree's friend Henry Hammond (1605-1660).

1.8 Paul Morgan's Oxford Libraries outside the Bodleian, the standard guide to Oxford college libraries, describes Christ Church library as ``the largest and richest library for research material in Oxford outside the Bodleian.'


Chronological outline and analysis by language

2.1 The printed collections have never satisfactorily been counted, but the library today contains in the region of 100,000 books printed before 1801. These include c. 100 incunabula, of which 32 were printed in German-speaking countries, and 2,750 STC books.

2.2 The library contains approximately 8,000 books printed in continental Europe before 1641. The greater part of these are in Latin or English, with substantial holdings in French, Greek, Italian and Hebrew, and some books in German, Dutch, Spanish, and various Oriental and Slavonic languages. German-language holdings account for a comparatively small proportion of the total holdings, but the library is very rich in early German imprints. For the period down to 1641, these account for perhaps a third of the continental books.

2.3 It is difficult to estimate the number of later German imprints, since these have not yet started to be catalogued by the current retrospective-conversion programme, but it is clear that there are very considerable numbers - several thousands at least - of late 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century German books in the library. These books will be catalogued online when work on the earlier continental imprints has been completed.

Subject outline

2.4 It is impossible to provide an accurate breakdown by subject, since most of the historic collections are shelved by donor, as they have been since the 18th century, and no comprehensive subject index has yet been created. But the collection is a true universal library, with significant holdings in all subjects that were studied in the University from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and many books on subjects that were not studied at Oxford, often from the collections assembled by bibliophile alumni in the 18th century.

2.5 There are 32 incunabula from German-speaking countries. The oldest printed book in the collections is an example of German contribution to printing in Italy, Augustine's De civitate Dei, published in Rome by the German printers Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz in 1468 (GW 2875); the earliest book published in Germany is Peter Schoeffer's edition of the same author's Sermo de festo praesentationis Mariae, published in Mainz between 1470 and 1475 (GW 2920). Twelve of the incunabula were published in Strasbourg, 10 at Nuremberg (9 for Anton Koberger, one for Caspar Hochfeder). Other printing places are Cologne (4), Basel (2) and Augsburg, Hagenau and Mainz (one each). The holdings are, as one might expect, largely theological (22 items), including Bible editions (4 items; Basel: Nicolaus Kesler 1487; [Strasbourg? Adolf Rusch? not after 1480]; Nuremberg: Anton Koberger 1487; a ``Biblia pauperum', [Strasbourg: Johann Prüss] 1490). Church Fathers are well represented too, e.g. Augustine (4 editions). Other theological authors to be mentioned are Alexander Carpentarius, Alphonsus de Spina, Duns Scotus, Gulielmus Durandus, Joannes Baptista Gratia Dei, Gulielmus de Gouda, Jacobus de Voragine, Ludolphus de Saxonia, Johannes Nider, Pelbartus de Temeswar (Stellarium coronae beatae Virginis Mariae, Hagenau 1498), Rainarius de Pisis and Thomas a Kempis. There are, however, quite a few examples of non-theological literature, e.g. classical philology (Horace, Opera, Strasbourg 1498, and Terence, Comoediae, Strasbourg 1496), and philosophy, concentrating on Aristotle (Opera, [Cologne] 1497), and 2 commentaries by Lambertus de Monte (Cologne 1498). Finally, Hartmann Schedel's rather widespread Liber chronicarum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger 1493) and Henricus Institoris's Malleus maleficarum ([Nuremberg: Caspar Hochfeder c.1500?]) are to be mentioned.

2.6 As far as 16th to 19th-century holdings are concerned the library is particularly strong in theology, classics, travel books, science, medicine, Hebraica, pamphlets and music. There are many 16th and 17th-century German scholarly books, and many pamphlets and dissertations. Dean Aldrich's print collection (now mostly kept in the neighbouring Christ Church Picture Gallery) contains few German engravings, though there are about half a dozen examples by Dürer. This is however, only a general survey: to quote Paul Morgan's guide once more, ``it is invidious to emphasise subjects, for it would be unwise for anyone seeking scarce material from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries to neglect this library.'

2.7 Examples of the wide range of theological writings are Luther's Catechismus pro pueris et iuuentute (Wittenberg: Peter Seitz 1539); or his Adversus papatum Romae a Sathana fundatum (Wittenberg: G. Rhau 1545); Adam Tanner, Relatio com-

pendiaria de initio, processu, et fine colloquii Ratis-

bonensis, quod anno domini M. DCI ... institutum fuit (Munich: ex typographia Nicolai Henrici 1602); Gabriel Vázquez, Paraphrasis et compendiaria explicatio ad nonnullas Pauli epistolas (Ingolstadt: Andres Angermar 1613).

2.8 Medicine is represented by works such as Joannes Lonaeus Boscius, Concordia medicorum et physicorum de humano conceptu (Ingolstadt: ex officina typographia Wolfgangi Ederi 1582); Johannes Crato von Crafftheim, Consiliorum & epistolarum medicinalium (Frankfurt a. M.: hæredes Andræ Wecheli 1591-1592); or Johann Vochs, Opusculum praeclarum de omni pestilentia (Cologne?: Eucharius Cervicornus? 1537). There are also numerous works on science, e.g. Christoph Entzelt, De re metallica (Frankfurt a. M.: hæredes Christiani Egenolphi 1557); Joannes Jonstonus, Dendrographias sive historiæ naturalis de arboribus et fructicibus (Frankfurt a. M.: typis Hieronymi Polichii, sumptibus hæredum Matthæi 1662); or Nikolaus Georg Geve, Belustigungen im Reiche der Natur an Conchylien (Hamburg 1755).

2.9 A high proportion of the early books are in contemporary bindings. The great majority were made in Oxford, but there are a few which clearly originated in Germany: one obvious example is the contemporary stamped pigskin binding on Gulielmus Durandus's Rationales divinorum officiorum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger 1481). A few definite German provenances have come to light: for the most part apparently unremarkable individuals (Nannius Geysteramus and Sebastian Stamperger, for example) who have not been identified further. Sebastian Stamperger's name is on Thomas a Kempis, De vita ...Iesu Christi (Augsburg: Anton Sorg c. 1490), which probably bears a 16th-century binding, whereas the binding of Virgil's Opera (Antwerp 1599) having belonged to Nannius Geysteramus appears to be 17th-century. One book has turned up which appears to have been in the Jesuit College in Munich in the 17th century (Claudio Aquaviva, R. P. Claudii Aquauiuae Societatis Iesu Praepositi Generalis industriae pro superioribus eiusdem Societatis, ad curandos anima morbus, Rome 1606); this arrived in Oxford in the 19th century.

2.10 A significant number of books appear not to exist in other research collections in the United Kingdom. Some are clearly very rare items. In the collection given by Robert Burton alone there are 18 German books which, if not necessarily unique, do not appear in the standard published catalogues and bibliographies. These include a volume of 14 disputations held at Wittenberg under the presidency of Jacobus Martini (1603-1604),

Theorematum metaphysicorum exercitationes quatuordecim (Wittenberg: typis Meisnerianis, impensis Zachariæ Schureri 1604), a book of jokes (Dionysius Melander, Novorum jocorum et seriorum selectissimorum juxta, ac maxime memorabilium centuria nova, Marburg: Wolfgang Ketzel 1609), an octavo volume on pharmacology published in Leipzig in 1613, Joannes Regiomontanus, Tabulae directionum et profectionum (Augsburg: Philip Ulhart 1552), and one book of specifically German interest: David Chytraeus, Chronici Saxonici et vicini orbis Arctoi pars quinta. Ab anno 1593. usque ad 1599 (Greifswald: August Ferber 1619).


3.1 General catalogues

Author card catalogue of pamphlets

[c. 15,000 books]

Author card catalogue of the Allestree Library

[c. 3,000 books]

19th-century manuscript ledger catalogue

[indexed by author only, covering the greater part of the historic collections, and currently in the process of being replaced by a new electronic catalogue]

Oxford University union catalogue (OLIS)

[Online; http://www.lib.ox.ac.uk/olis. More than 3,000 Christ Church early books (mostly early continental imprints, with more than 700 from Germany) are now included. The books are indexed by author, title, subject, printer, place of publication, citations in standard reference sources, and (in many cases) provenance. The number of Christ Church books on OLIS is set to increase considerably in the foreseeable future]

3.2 Modern special catalogues

Provenance index

[started in the 1930s, and still incomplete, but covering perhaps two-thirds of the historic collections]

Card catalogue of library donors' book

[covering gifts to the library from 1614 to 1841, followed by a card catalogue of gifts from 1841-1897]

Catalogue of printed music published prior to 1801 now in the Library of Christ Church, Oxford. Ed. Aloys Hiff. London 1919

Cowley, A. E.: A concise catalogue of the Hebrew printed books in the Bodleian Library. Oxford 1929 [annotated with Christ Church holdings]

Rhodes, Dennis E.: A catalogue of incunabula in all the libraries of Oxford University outside the Bodleian. Oxford 1982 [quotes Christ Church locations]

The incunables are recorded in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

3.3 Historic catalogues

Complete run of general catalogues, starting in 1665,

and including several annotated copies of early Bodleian Library printed catalogues

Many contemporary catalogues and shelflists of individual collections are now in Christ Church Library, notably those of:

Henry Aldrich (1649-1710), Dean of Christ Church

William Wake (1657-1737), Archbishop of Canterbury

Charles Boyle (1676-1731), 4th Earl of Orrery

William Stratford (1672-1729), Canon of Christ Church


4.1 Archival sources

The library retains substantial records of its activities since the 17th century; these include catalogues and shelflists, library accounts, and miscellaneous papers dealing with matters as diverse as fittings and furnishings, binding and bookplates. There is also material relating to the library in Christ Church Archives: the earliest dates from the 16th century.

4.2 Publications

Hiscock, W. G.: A Christ Church Miscellany. Oxford 1946

Bill, E. G. W.: Christ Church and Hereford Cathedral Libraries and the Bodleian. In: Bodleian Library Record 4 (1952/53) pp. 145-149

Ker, N. R.: The provision of books. In: The history of the University of Oxford. Vol. 4. Ed. by James McConica. Oxford 1986, pp. 441-519 [including, particularly Appendix III: Books at Christ Church, 1562-1602]

The building accounts of Christ Church Library 1716-1779. A Transcription. Ed. with an introduction by Jean Cook and John Mason. Oxford 1988

Purcell, Mark: ``Useful weapons for the Defence of That Cause': Richard Allestree and the foundation of the Allestree Library. In: The Library ser. 6, 21 (June 1999) [includes material about acquisition of foreign books in 17th-century Oxford]

Christ Church Library is the largest Oxford college library, and it features prominently in all the general accounts of the history of libraries in the University.



Kiessling, Nicolas K.: The Library of Robert Burton. Oxford 1988

There are no guides relating to German books at Christ Church, but an excellent general survey of the collections will be found in:

Morgan, Paul: Christ Church College. In: Oxford Libraries outside the Bodleian. A guide. 2nd ed. Oxford 1980, pp. 25-35

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ... 2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 521-522

April 1998

Mark Purcell

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.