500 Years of Treasures from Oxford

Press Contacts 
Garland Scott
(202) 675–0342, gscott@folger.edu
Esther French
(202) 675–0326, efrench@folger.edu
Ben Lauer
(202) 675–0376, blauer@folger.edu 

On Exhibit

February 4 – April 30, 2017

Washington, DC— Founded 500 years ago in 1517, Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford is a repository of extraordinary treasures, few of which have ever been seen by the public. To mark its 500th anniversary, fifty manuscripts and early printed books from its celebrated library, ranging in date from the 10th to the 17th centuries, are being brought to America for the first time. The Folger Shakespeare Library is their first stop. 
500 Years of Treasures from Oxford, curated by Peter Kidd, focuses on the first hundred years of Corpus Christi College’s existence. The exhibition introduces the College’s Founder, Richard Fox, powerful Bishop of Winchester and adviser to Henry VII and Henry VIII, and its first President, John Claymond, who laid the foundations of the Library’s great collection. From the start, Corpus Christi—the first Renaissance college at Oxford—was to pursue Humanist ideals of scholarship in three languages: not just Latin, but also Greek and Hebrew, the original languages of the Bible, along with such other subjects as Astronomy, Mathematics, Medicine, and Philosophy.
The exhibition presents books in each of these languages, including a number that are bilingual and even trilingual. Among the most notable are a group that has been called "the most important collection of Anglo-Jewish manuscripts in the world." These works of the 12th and 13th centuries include a series of volumes apparently commissioned by Christians from Jews, from which to learn Hebrew and study biblical texts in their original language, as well as the commentaries of Rashi and what is thought to be the oldest surviving Ashkenazi siddar (daily prayer book).
Corpus Christi also has an unusually important collection of manuscripts in Early and Middle English. The exhibition includes illuminated copies of the Canterbury Tales and Piers Plowman, a 12th-century Irish illuminated manuscript book of the Four Gospels, and the Lapworth Missal which features one of the largest and finest English Crucifixion illuminations of the 14th century. 
Highlighting Corpus’ role in the development of science and medicine at Oxford, the exhibition finishes with a series of ground-breaking works, from Galileo’s first observation of the surface of the moon using a telescope and Sir Isaac Newton’s autograph observations of Halley’s Comet to Hooke’s observations of insects using a microscope and Vesalius’ studies of the human body.
All the objects in this exhibition have been lent by Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford. 
500 Years of Treasures from Oxford is supported by the Winton and Carolyn Blount Exhibition Fund of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Exhibition sponsors include The David Berg Foundation, The Hite Foundation, The Kirsh Foundation as well as alumni and friends of Corpus Christi College: Mr Peter Anderton, Mr Timothy Bishop. Mr David Bloch, Prof John Campbell, Prof Richard Carwardine, Mr John Field, Mr Warren Finegold, Ms Dina Gold, Mr Alan Goulty and Dr Lillian Harris, Prof Robert Gordon, Mr Matthew Latimer and Ms Anna Sproul-Latimer, Mr Satyen Mehta, Prof Robert Newman, Dr Paul and Mrs Elizabeth Planet, Mr Bob Rosenfeld, Dr Ashley Stevens, Mr Michael Sulmeyer, Mr Mike Tuohy, Prof Ian Wilson, and Mr Christopher Wright. Exclusive media sponsor is The Wall Street Journal. 
After the Folger, 500 Years of Treasures from Oxford will be on view at the Center for Jewish History in New York, from May 14 to August 6, 2017. 


Peter Kidd has worked with medieval manuscripts for most of the past thirty years, first as a research student, and then in a variety of curatorial roles at the Getty Museum in California (where he put on his first exhibition of illuminated manuscripts), the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the British Library, London. He has published approximately 60 articles, book-reviews, and catalogues about Western European illuminated manuscripts of the 11th to the 16th centuries; his most recent book, just published, is a catalogue of the medieval and Renaissance manuscripts of The Queen’s College, Oxford. He lives in London and works freelance as a researcher and consultant for a variety of commercial and non-profit organizations.
Caroline Duroselle-Melish, curatorial advisor to the exhibition, is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has worked with a wide range of collections in university and independent rare book libraries, including serving as Rare Book Librarian at the University of Rochester and, most recently, as Assistant Curator at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. She has published on a range of topics associated with early modern printing, including studies of Ulisse Aldrovandi’s library and trade relations between Frankfurt and Bologna.


Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford delivers world-class undergraduate and graduate education to students of exceptional potential, regardless of financial background, through rigorous academic selection, individual and small group tutorial education, and personal support. It provides an academically diverse environment in which students may mature towards independence in study and research. The College also aims to promote research and instruction of the highest quality by its Fellows, all of them distinguished teachers and researchers in their fields, and study by its students, for the benefit of wider understanding. Its honey-colored, limestone buildings are among the most beautiful in Oxford, and its remarkable 16th-century Library is one of the jewels of the city yet closed to the general public, making the rare glimpse afforded by this exhibition all the more extraordinary.


High-resolution press images are available by request or by accessing Dropbox.


by Richard Carwardine and Peter Kidd
Beautifully illustrated with a selection of highlights from exhibition, this 64-page paperback catalogue is the perfect introduction to the remarkable library collection of Corpus Christi College. 
$19.99; available in the Folger Gift Shop.


500 Years of Treasures from Oxford blog
Folger website and social media
The exhibition is featured on the Folger’s website at www.folger.edu, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter via the hashtag #TreasuresFromOxford


Folger Fridays
Friday, March 3, 2017, 6pm; Free
Scholar Kellie Robertson discusses the Middle English manuscripts on exhibition. 
Folger Talks
A discussion with Roger Cohen
Thursday, March 23, 2017, 7:30pm; Tickets $15
Roger Cohen, noted journalist and The New York Times columnist, on the importance of the work and ideas of Isaiah Berlin, distinguished philosopher and Corpus Christi College alumnus, in a time of growing intolerance.
Folger Consort
March 31–April 2, 2017; Tickets $40
The late 16th century saw a revolution in musical practice in Italy—“old style” Renaissance compositions gave way to the innately dramatic music of the early Baroque. Folger Consort celebrates this age of revelations with music of the spheres—dramatic songs by Monteverdi, lute music by Galileo’s father Vincenzo Galilei, and brilliant early violin sonatas and keyboard pieces. 
Early Music Seminar with Robert Eisenstein
Wednesday, March 29; Tickets $15
Pre-Performance Discussion with Robert Aubry Davis
Friday, March 31; Free with purchase of a performance ticket
Concert Performance
by James Reston, Jr. 
Featuring Ed Gero
Thursday March 30, 7pm; Tickets $20
Join Folger Consort for a special concert featuring the music of Starry Messenger and a play, adapted from Reston’s 1994 biography, Galileo: A Life, which replays the 17th-century trial of Galileo Galilei —when the astronomer-mathematician violated Catholic dogma by asserting that the Earth orbits the sun. Directed by Alan Paul.


Folger Shakespeare Library is located at 201 East Capitol Street, Washington, DC 20003, one block east of the US Capitol. 
Hours and Admission
Monday through Thursday, 10am–5pm Friday, 10am–8pm 
Saturday, 10am–5pm Sunday noon–5pm
Admission is free.
Monday – Saturday at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm; Sunday at 12pm and 3pm

Folger docents offer guided tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger’s national landmark building, free of charge. No advance reservations required. 
Wednesday at 12pm; Saturday at 2pm

Folger docents offer a special exhibition-focused tour, free of charge. No advance reservations required. 
Docent-led tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger’s national landmark building, are offered for groups of 10 or more. To arrange, please call (202) 675–0395. 


Folger Shakespeare Library is the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the ultimate resource for exploring Shakespeare and his world. The Folger welcomes millions of visitors online and in person. We provide unparalleled access to a huge array of resources, from original sources to modern interpretations. With the Folger, you can experience the power of performance, the wonder of exhibitions, and the excitement of pathbreaking research. We offer the opportunity to see and even work with early modern sources, driving discovery and transforming education for students of all ages. Join us online, on the road, or in Washington, DC. 
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Press Contacts 
Garland Scott
(202) 675–0342, gscott@folger.edu
Esther French
(202) 675–0326, efrench@folger.edu
Ben Lauer
(202) 675–0376, blauer@folger.edu