This month’s Special Collections blog posts celebrates languages by exploring the 17th and 18th Century dictionaries housed in our Old Library. They include texts that share definitions, translations, and even advice on pruning fig trees…
The late 16th and early 17th Centuries saw the peak of ‘witch hysteria’ in Europe. Paranoia surrounding ideas about sorcery and demons led to accusations, trials and cruel punishments, including tens of thousands of executions. This month’s blog post explores the literature that fuelled this phenomenon: as texts that condemened or seemingly provided evidence for witchcraft circulated, feelings of panic and suspicion also spread. The following texts reveal not only the literature and academic ideas regarding witchcraft, but the real impact they would have had on ordinary lives.
From the founding of St John’s College in 1555 through to the present day, the life of the Library has been one of bold choices and big changes. Our current exhibition, Stories from the Shelves, explores the Library and its readers throughout the ages using items from our special collections.
Here you can see a few of the treasures on display. Click on the images to read about the item.
If you would like to visit the exhibition and are not a member of the College, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 31st October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a text that sparked the Reformation. The movement was entwined with the introduction of Gutenberg’s printing press, allowing the rapid spread of texts such as pamphlets and vernacular Bibles. As such, it is a historical moment of shift in terms of reading, writing and literacy, as well as fascinating texts. Continue reading
25 August 1636: the Opening of the Laudian Library
The Laudian Library, St John’s College, Oxford
To mark the opening of the new Inner Library, now the Laudian Library, Archbishop Laud held a lavish celebration, attended by King Charles I and Queen Henrietta.
A full and digitised description of the Housman papers at St John’s is in the works. Connie Bettison, St John’s library trainee from 2016-17, writes about her experience beginning the digital cataloguing process.
A.E. Housman (1859-1936) is best known today for his poetry but in his own time he was highly regarded as a classical scholar. His entrance into this world was a mixture of leaps and bounds and slow-burning effort. He matriculated as a student of Greats at St John’s in 1877 and achieved a first in Mods. Despite this, he failed his final exams. Returning to college in the years that followed while working as a clerk for the Patent Office in London, he eventually passed his exams and graduated in 1892.
After these twelve years of administration work at the Patent Office and independent study of Greek and Latin, Housman got a job as Professor of Latin at University College London. Housman taught there for nineteen years. Then, in 1911 he moved on to take a Latin professorship at Trinity College Cambridge. This was where he lived and worked until the end of his life in 1936.
This month, we gather together a number of different items which share a northern theme: twentieth-century cartoons, seventeenth-century astronomy, nineteenth-century literature, sixteenth-century history, eighteenth-century exploration, and a seventeenth-century Bible.
Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus [Description of the Northern people], Olaus Magnus (1550) ∑.2.14
Olaus Magnus (1490-1557) was a Swedish writer and Archbishop of Uppsala, and this book was his magnus opus. With over 800 pages of Latin text – and littered with pleasing woodcut prints – Magnus systematically makes an effort to describe the people and the land in full. He writes on religion, law, government, lifestyle, food, wildlife, mythology and more.
The woodcut prints cover a similar range of subjects. The examples shown below include a rendering of a runic alphabet, depictions of a giant, a bear dancing with a woman, a battle between an army of cranes and an army of dwarfs, a King, and Norwegian seamonsters.