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.
At St John’s College special collections and manuscripts are the treasures of the Library. These are often invaluable for research purposes and, in some cases, are unique volumes. Such irreplaceable objects require equally distinctive care and treatment, and St John’s is a member of the Oxford Conservation Consortium which provides excellent conservation possibilities for its texts.
Recently this has been significant for one of the college’s greater treasures: manuscript 154, a broadly contemporary copy of grammatical works by Ælfric of Eynsham (ca. 955-ca. 1010) and his namesake, Ælfric Bata, who would also appear to have been his pupil. Written in England during the very early 11th century, this is the only book amongst the Library’s collections which is fully Anglo-Saxon, and has received praise from Professor Ralph Hanna, Oxford’s Emeritus Professor of Paleography, for representing ‘a virtually unique insight into late Anglo-Saxon schooling’. Continue reading →