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Master audits historic manuscripts at Parker Library Audit

  • 14 February 2020

A typical Friday morning for our Master Dr Pippa Rogerson? Think again!

This morning, Pippa made the short walk to Corpus Christi College’s Parker Library for the annual Parker Library Audit – a tradition that dates back to 1574.

The audit is a requirement under the terms of an indenture by which Matthew Parker donated his books to the library. Each year, the contents of the library are checked at random by a member of Trinity Hall or Gonville & Caius College, in alternating years.

Dr Philippa Hoskin, Donnelley Fellow Librarian of the Parker Library, explained: “If a certain number of books have been lost, the whole collection is forfeit to Gonville & Caius College, and if Caius should be similarly neglectful, the collection passes to Trinity Hall and, if necessary back to Corpus.

“In this way, the three colleges were set to watch over each other – and each was provided with a copy of the Parker Register, the checklist of Parker’s books.”

The Parker Library, said to be Corpus Christi College’s greatest national heritage treasure, is internationally renowned for its important collection of medieval and renaissance manuscripts, and valuable holdings of early printed books. The collection it houses includes a variety of superb books, including the sixth-century St Augustine Gospels, and the autograph copy of Matthew Paris’ Chronica maiora, with almost all manuscripts fully digitised and available online on Parker on the Web.

This year, Pippa could select as many or as few books as she liked to audit. Pippa remarked, “I am not an historian nor an archivist. So my choices may be a little unconventional.” The books she chose were instead based on her personal interest in the Library’s history, Erasmus, and beautifully illustrated manuscripts.

“I selected seven works to inspect. These included: Documents relating to the University of Cambridge (MS 106), and Matthew Parker’s Correspondence volumes 1 and 2 (MS 114A and MS 114B) – principally taking the theme of Parker’s views on married priests “a godly wyfe is an helper”; Letters with a topical European theme of reformers, including a letter from Erasmus (MS 119); and the Corpus Apocalypse (MS 20), Peterborough Psalter and Bestiary (MS 53), and St Augustine Gospels (MS 286) – because I heard these are very beautiful,” said Pippa.

She continued: “It has been such a privilege to be able to see and hold these amazing manuscripts. You can feel centuries of history in one’s hand.”

We are pleased to report that all the books Pippa selected were accounted for and so the Parker Library retains the collection.


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