Christ Church Crest

Update 1999

by Mark Purcell


The total number of books is now well over 100,000. There are over 110,000 volumes in the modern lending collections alone, and the total number of volumes is estimated to be just over 150,000. Several more incunables have come to light through the ongoing recataloguing programme, and this figure now stands at just over 100. The number of current periodicals is now about 160, and was probably even higher when Morgan's work was last printed.

W.G. Hiscock

W.G. Hiscock's contribution to the study of Christ Church Library, although falling short of modern historical standards, should not be dismissed. His Christ Church Miscellany (privately printed in 1946) contains a mass of information, but lacks proper references, making it hard to check the accuracy of his research. His efforts came too early to benefit from the results of E.G.W. Bill's many years of work with the sources held in the archives of Christ Church. Bill discovered what is perhaps the most important document for the history of the library: the original contract for the refitting of the chained library in 1610-11. This was published in the Bodleian Library Record in 1954. Bill's further work on the archives over the following two decades has brought to light many fresh sources for the history of the college.

Wake Manuscripts

Initial requests relating to the Wake manuscripts should be made through the library staff in the normal way.

The Evelyn collection

The library and manuscripts of John Evelyn, which were held at Christ Church on deposit from the Evelyn trustees, are no longer kept here. The printed books were sold by the trustees and dispersed in auction sales at Christies in 1977 and 1978. The majority of the manuscripts were sold by the trustees to the British Library in 1995, and the remainder, relating to the Wotton estate, are held at the Surrey History Centre. Please contact the British Library or Surrey History Service for further information.

Muniments remaining in the Treasury

Many of the items which were kept in the Treasury when Paul Morgan wrote his account in 1972 have since been transferred to the Muniment Room. The Treasury does, however, retain modern (20th century) material relating to estates which are still owned by Christ Church.

Surviving college accounts

There are also some account rolls and bailiffs' books which give summary records from 1548.

Muniment Room finding aids

Typescript catalogues now exist for the papers of the Steward's Office (dating from 1865), for the Dean and Chapter records, Deanery papers (on the administration of the educational side of the foundation), for the Governing Body records, for the deeds under seal, for the papers of clubs and societies, and for the photograph collection. There is also a map catalogue supplementary to that prepared by Dr E.G.W. Bill. A biographical database of members of Christ Church (and Cardinal College) from 1525 is in preparation; the section to 1660 is complete.

Records of the Dean and Chapter

These have been transferred to the main archive in the Muniment Room.

Robert Burton

The definitive study of the library of Robert Burton is Nicolas K. Kiessling's The library of Robert Burton, Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1988. - (Oxford Bibliographical Society publications. New series; v. 22). - ISBN 0 901420 42 5. Kiessling puts the number of Burton's books held at Christ Church at 780.


The main ledger catalogue was revised by W.G. Hiscock on the basis of work of the 1890s, which was generally very poor in quality, being heavily based on the previous catalogue. Being merely a revision, it consequently suffers from many of the same idiosyncracies. The choice of headings in particular is neither reliable nor consistent, and despite Hiscock's painstaking work, during which he examined every book in the library, there remain entries that do not describe the books accurately.

Sadly, the new card catalogues which Hiscock created for pamphlets and for the Allestree Library followed the pattern of the old ledger catalogue. This means that while they are much more accurate in their description, they do not go so far as to include the names of the printers, which would have been very useful. Although all the English books were checked against STC and Wing, the annotated copies only record holdings, and not the Christ Church shelfmarks. This means that the ledger and pamphlet catalogues must still be relied uopn to locate the books from these periods. For anonymous works especially this is less than straightforward. Potential readers should therefore contact the library well in advance to make an appointment and to ensure that the materials they wish to see will be available.

Music catalogues

The published catalogues of music referred to by Morgan are gradually being superseded by the new on-line music catalogue. The catalogue itself includes full information as to its current coverage, along with articles on the provenance of the collections which greatly augment the information available in Morgan's article.

Orrery collection

See Orrery Books in Christ Church Library

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