Library Exhibitions and Research

Byrd 400: A Celebration at Christ Church, Oxford

To mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd (c.1540-1623), Christ Church will host a one-day event on Tuesday, 7 November 2023, comprising a symposium, exhibition in the glorious Upper Library, and evensong, ending with a small drinks reception in the cathedral Chapter House to launch the new Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM) facsimiles of Byrd's Liber Sacrarum Cantionum I II (1589 & 91) and his joint publication with Thomas Tallis, Cantiones Sacrae (1575).

Quenching Curiosity: Unusual Hebrew Books at Christ Church

On display is a small number of unusual Hebrew and Yiddish books which have, intriguingly and some rather surprisingly, found their way to this Oxford college library. Drawn from the second phase of the College’s ambitious project to catalogue and digitise its historic Hebrew books and manuscripts, these volumes showcase a variety of places, themes and personalities connected with Jewish printed texts from the fifteenth century to 1800. The story of these books, told here for the first time, takes us on a journey from the North of Europe to the South, traversing the lands of Central and Eastern Europe, and from Italy to the Ottoman Empire.

The exhibition is open from 24 October 2022 to 24 February 2023. Visiting hours: Monday-Friday,  10-12 and 2-4pm by appointment. Please contact

News about the 1519 Sarum Antiphoner

Wolfgang Hopyl’s edition of the Sarum Antiphoner, printed in Paris in 1519 and 1520, is of the first importance. This is arguably the most ambitious printing project for the English market before John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Having the volume online now provides an invaluable resource.

More photographs by Lewis Carroll

Three small bequests of photographs taken by Charles L. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) have recently been made available in digital form. These considerably increase the status of the Lewis Carroll collection of photographs held by the Library.

Listing some items of interest from Christ Church collections digitised in 2022

2022 has been a very busy year in terms of the digitisation programme. To complement the Library’s efforts to finalize cataloguing the Hebrew early printed books, this year the digitisation programme has focused on the above collection. Most of these, plus a few other eagerly awaited documents, are now available on Digital Bodleian.

Euclid's The Elements of Geometrie back to the Library at Christ Church

The Library is delighted to announce the acquisition of a long-lost copy of Euclid's The Elements of Geometrie.  Translated into English by Sir Henry Billingsley, with a preface by John Dee (London, 1570), this book is the first edition of the first complete English translation of Euclid’s treatise.  The volume was given to the Library in 1587 by a group of nine students on receiving their Master of Arts degrees and the verso of the title-page records the names of the students.

Another important Greek Manuscript has been digitised

A Miscellany of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Texts (MS 49) has been recently digitised and is now available for consultation. The codex contains a variety of religious and historical texts, with booklets dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries. It was most likely produced in Ioannina, Epirus.

Christ Church Library Newsletter - Volume 12, Issue 2-3 (2020-21) is out

A new double issue of Christ Church Library Newsletter has just been published. The journal is available in hard-copy and online. This is an academic publication primarily documenting and interpreting aspects of the collection at Christ Church, but not only. The latest issue consists of 52 pages of articles and studies on a wide range of topics, highlighting the depth and variety of very recent research conducted on the Christ Church collections.

Dante in Christ Church

To honour the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, Christ Church hosts a small and focused display of books and drawings from the Renaissance period. Opens on 1 October 2021 in the Picture Gallery.

Gifts of Books & Women Making History

New exhibition dedicated to learned and talented Christ Church women, and their important contributions throughout the ages. Opens on 18 September 2021 in the Upper Library. The exhibition celebrates 40 years of women at Christ Church.

For the year 5782

The Jewish holy day of Rosh ha-Shanah (the New Year), marking the creation of the world, is a time of penitence and prayer, but with plenty of sweetness added to the celebration. While the Hebrew Bible begins with creation, a later mystical treatise called Sefer Yetsirah - of ancient or early medieval origin - focuses specifically on this subject.

A New Tudor Partbook in the Christ Church Music Collection

After many years of private ownership, Christ Church Library was successful in acquiring an important manuscript (Mus 1296), namely, the violin partbook from a set of four volumes, dating c.1640, containing consort music by John Coprario and William Lawes.

More works by Lewis Carroll digitised

The Library is pleased to announce that a new selection of rare or unique items from the Lewis Carroll Collection at Christ Church is now available in digital form. Most of these items are part of a donation by Robert Vernon Harcourt in 1984.

Treasures from the Library at the V&A and Hampton Court

We are thrilled to have lent items from Christ Church Library to two major exhibitions.

Sir Philip Sidney's Funeral Portrayed in Lant’s Roll

The fully digitised version of The Funeral Procession of Sir Philip Sidney, also known as Lant's Roll, is now available. This is an item of extreme rarity designed by Thomas Lant and engraved by Theodor de Bry, published in 1588. It consists of 31 oblong plates. Putting the plates in sequence would create a 10 metres long roll. The only complete set of engravings appears to be at Christ Church.

Heaven or Hell?

Several Jewish rabbinic authorities and scholars consider the central concept of paradise to be either terrestrial or celestial; on the other hand, what came to represent later, in rabbinic literature a destination of punishment of the wicked (hell, of sorts), was originally a mere small valley in Jerusalem, called gehenna in the Hebrew Bible. As a contemporary of Dante in Italy, Immanuel ben Solomon ben Jekuthiel (ca. 1261-ca.1335) was inspired by the Divine Comedy when writing his Tofet ṿe-ʻeden. Christ Church Library has a copy of an important edition of Tofet ṿe-ʻeden, printed in Berlin in 1778. This edition is special because it includes a poem by Solomon ben Joel Dubno (1738-1813) who was one of the pioneers of the Jewish Enlightenment (haskalah) movement.

Christ Church Library Newsletter - Volume 12, Issue 1 (2020-21) is out

A new volume of Christ Church Library Newsletter has just been published. The journal is available in hard-copy and online. This is an academic publication primarily documenting and interpreting aspects of the collection at Christ Church, but not only. The latest issue consists of 48 pages of articles and studies on a wide range of topics, highlighting the depth and variety of very recent research conducted on the Christ Church collections.

For Elijah

Ashkenazi’s most important work is his commentary on the historical parts of the Pentateuch, called Ma’ase ha-Shem (The Works of God), which he wrote for his son Elijah. A copy of the first edition of this book is in the Morris collection at Christ Church. The Library also houses two different editions of the Passover Haggadah. An incunable edition of the Hagiographa in Hebrew, accompanied with commentaries by Rashi, Joseph Kara, and Levi ben Gershom (ME.3.21), was bought for the college library from the fund established by its Regius Professor of Hebrew, John Morris (1594/5-1648).

A 12th century Byzantine Psalter Now Available in Digital Form

The most recent addition to the collection of digitised manuscripts at Christ Church is a 12th century Byzantine Psalter (MS 42). This is a sizable codex on parchment, the exquisite work of one main scribe. Intriguingly, however, inserted in the volume are also a few pages on paper (ff. 49r-v, 86r-v and 132r-135-v) by a different hand.


Jewish holiday of Purim symbolises the saving of the Jewish people from their annihilation, as plotted by wicked Haman who was a government official in the Achaemenid Persian Empire. These dramatic events unfold in the biblical book of Esther. Christ Church Library’s Hebrew holdings include three interesting antiquarian books that relate to Purim.

Come Healing

Christ Church Library has important holdings that relate to Jewish prayers. This is unusual for an environment that would traditionally not promote the study of Hebrew liturgy. The least, perhaps, that one would expect to find in an Oxford college library is a set of eighteenth-century Ashkenazi tefillin (phylacteries) that comprise two small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment, inscribed with verses from the Torah. Apart from this, there are also numerous Jewish prayer books at Christ Church.

On Wisdom in Hebrew Fables

The numerous annotated copies of Hebrew books from the former libraries of Hartmann, Oluf Gerhard Tychsen (1734-1815) and Jacob Georg Christian Adler (1756-1834) are being catalogued at Christ Church and remind us of the heydays of German theological scholarship.

Music from a Christ Church Tudor manuscript discussed in New York Times

An engrossing article on John Sheppard's Media Vita appeared in New York Times a few days ago.  The online version is particularly exciting as it has also added a few recordings of the said piece. There is an important connection between Sheppard's composition and Christ Church Library, as its earliest manuscript (recently digitised) is among the treasures preserved in our Special Collections.

Long list announced for the 2021 Wingate Literary Prize

Christ Church Library is happy to announce that Jewish Treasures from Oxford Libraries has been long listed for the prestigious 2021 Wingate Literary Prize.

Digital Bodleian 2 Release

The Library is pleased to report that the new interface for Digital Bodleian is up and running from 24 November 2020, replacing the old interface. Digital Bodleian is the platform on which all digitised items from Christ Church Library can be viewed.

Update on digitisation during Michaelmas 2020

Digitisation and photographic work went on uninterruptedly during the most recent lockdown and the period of restrictions before. The team involved in the process over the past three months managed to  make available in digital form another significant number of  important items from the Western, Hebrew and early printed collections.

From Salonica—to Biblioteca Colbertina in Paris, and via Pauls Coffee House—to Oxford

With the growth of Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire, new printing shops of Hebrew books were established in its main centres. Salonica was one such a hub where Hebrew scholarship and book culture flourished after the arrival of expelled Jewish population. This article explores how a book from that far corner of the world arrived at Oxford.

Christ Church and the Wonderland of Digitisation

The importance and benefits of digitisation to teaching, research and conservation have become increasingly obvious, especially now, with collections more and more difficult to visit directly.  In this context, the ability to access material, 24 hours a day, via a rapidly growing Digital Library, is essential. This brief update provides a glimpse into the latest on the project and what the process entails.

Bringing to Light an Unknown Manuscript in the Allestree Library

Until now, the manuscript known as "Allestree M.3.1" has never been carefully examined. It is one of the many notebooks written by Tristram Sugge (1610-61), and consists of a doctrinal manual for the Christian Church discussing mainly patriarchal kingship, authority, ecclesiology, the Law of Moses and the Sabbath. This is the latest in the series of  Christ Church fully digitised manuscripts.

Another Lydgate Manuscript Digitised at Christ Church Library

After making available John Lydgate's Poems (MS 152), the imaging team at Christ Church has brought to light another fifteenth-century manuscript by the same author. Lydgate's Troy Book (MS 153) is one of the many attempts in medieval vernacular poetry to recount the story of the Trojan war. The poem is a verse narrative minutely faithful to its source, Guido delle Colonne's Historia destructionis Troiae, a late thirteenth-century Latin prose work.

An alchemist's Bible purchased for Christ Church Library in 1676

A closer look at the Christ Church 1608 edition of the so called 'Vizsoly Bible’ has revealed a very interesting story. This can be reconstructed by carefully examining the binding, current and previous shelfmarks, and by placing the information provided by the presentation notes in a wider context.

Wakefields at Christ Church

Hebrew studies have been part and parcel of academic life at Christ Church since the college was founded. Over the almost five hundred years, its teaching and research collections have grown substantially and number of notable Hebrew scholars have been associated with the college. Among them is Robert Wakefield (d. 1537/8) who became Regius Praelector of Hebrew at Christ Church in 1529 and three years later was appointed one of the founding canons of the college. Robert’s younger brother Thomas Wakefield (d. 1575) graduated BA at Cambridge. Brothers Wakefield Renaissance library may have been one of the greatest private collections of Hebraica in sixteenth-century England,

Tikkun Leil Shavuot

Christ Church Library has a beautiful copy of an eighteenth century Torah scroll that was probably made for use in a Central European synagogue. The scroll contains the entire Torah and comes with two wooden rollers and embroidered velvet mantle. The size of the scroll is truly impressive, as well as the work that the scribe has invested in writing it but also the decorations of the woodwork and embroidery are telling of the importance of the object.

Unexpected cultural encounters at Christ Church

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Christ Church was always, one way or another, part of a cultural exchange between the Levant and England. The interest was reciprocated by the Orthodox Church. A letter from Dositheos, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, to Archbishop Wake (letter 17 in volume 23 of Wake's collected correspondence in Christ Church Library) reveals his intention to visit Oxford.

In search of lost manuscripts

The Library has recently digitised MS 689 (aka Mus 1295), an intriguing fragment from a fifteenth-century Roman Missal donated by Paul Lewis, father of Jonathan W. Lewis (Christ Church, 1991). At the time, the intention was to follow the matter through and see if any more of the manuscript came to light. Sadly, despite our efforts so far, we never did find any sign of more of it. By digitising this incomplete manuscript now, the hope is that scholars might trace other pages scattered throughout collections elsewhere in the world, adding more substance to the extant fragment, even if only virtually.

Hey, This isn't a Doubloon!

Sermons were exceedingly common, and, in my own experience, a sermon, today, is one of the most likely of pamphlets to be found in a state with its leaves never trimmed or even unopened. This particular sermon, however, was read, and the evidence of its travels creates a further link between events and places not otherwise immediately connected in a historical context.

Levantine echoes in Christ Church Library

In volume No.26, among Archbishop Wake’s private correspondence, there are 20 letters pointing to the Levantine provenance of some of the Byzantine manuscripts and several of the printed books in his collections.

Scores from the music collection in performance

Among the treasures of the music collection are 28 rare Italian prints calling for chitarrone or tiorba as a continuo instrument. For the benefit of any readers or researchers curious about this instrument, here is a link to a short video by Lynda Sayce, which covers the history of the Renaissance lute, up to and including the chitarrone.

Jewish Treasures from Oxford Libraries

Christ Church Library is pleased to announce the publication of a volume including an important contribution by Dr Rahel Fronda, who has been working on the prestigious collection of Hebrew early printed books and manuscripts at Christ Church.

Nature within the Pages: Flora, Fauna, Anatomy and the rest of the World (17 May-30 November 2019)

This exhibition explores the illustration and explanation of the Natural World, from imaginative interpretations of hyenas and hedgehogs, to engravings of wind, and even through the microscope for a closer look at ‘animalcules’. See how illustrations have been used to assist in the spread of knowledge in the Natural Sciences and the important role they played in a time before photography.

Thinking 3D: The Mathematics of Space (20 February-10th May 2019)

"The Mathematics of Space" at Christ Church is part of the "Thinking 3D" series of events organised in the UK during 2018-2019. This is a project focused on the development of techniques and technologies used to communicate three-dimensional forms in two-dimensional media. The exhibition at Christ Church aimed to highlight the role of the college in teaching geometry and astronomy at Oxford during the 17th and 18th centuries. Thematically, it mainly focused on exploring the impact of Euclid, Archimedes, Serenus and Pappus of Alexandria on both art and early modern geometry. Also on show in the Upper Library were treatises on the study of perspective by Luca Pacioli, Jean François Nicéron, Joseph Moxon and Albrecht Dürer, as well as manuscripts by early modern mathematicians like David Gregory, Charles Scarborough, Willebrord Snell, Nicolas Mercator and Edmund Halley.

Winckelmann and Curiosity in the 18th-Century Gentleman's Library (29 June-30 November 2018)

To commemorate the Winckelmann anniversaries 2017/2018, Christ Church Library prepared an exhibition and series of events in collaboration with the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, University of Reading and the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford. The exhibition explored the German scholar's varied influence on the arts in Britain, through printed media and decorative arts. To learn more about Winckelmann and the exhibition, you can now watch a short film with the curators.

Temporary exhibition in the Upper Library (26-28 September 2018)

Sir Dimitri Obolensky FBA ( 1918-2001)
Professor of Russian and Balkan History 1961-1985

The Centenary of Dimitri Obolensky, one of the most distinguished Oxford historians of recent times is being celebrated in Christ Church Upper Library by an exhibition drawn from his recently catalogued papers. It was opened by the Dean of Christ Church the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy and other speakers at 5-30 on Wednesday 26th September. On the following two days an international conference took place at Worcester College on the themes and importance now of his major work ‘The Byzantine Commonwealth’.

Singing Books: Text, Object and Song in the International Madrigal (8 March - 22 June 2018)

Christ Church has one of the finest collections of English and Italian madrigals in the world and a history of music-making within the library. It is the perfect site for this combined exhibition and concert series which explores the relationship between madrigal music, words and the physical objects of music scores in the library's historic collections.

More than a House for Books (2 November 2017 - 23 February 2018)

The exhibition curated by David Rundle and Cristina Neagu considered the place of the Western manuscripts within the wider context of the Library’s eclectic riches. It delineated how what we now know as its ‘special collections’ came to be owned by Christ Church and considered what that tells us about the purpose and scope of a library.

Jewish Books and their Christian Readers: Christ Church Connections (22 May - 20 October 2017)

The EAJS conference Jewish Books and their Christian Collectors in Europe, the New World and Czarist Russia launched a major exhibition, Jewish Books and their Christian Readers: Christ Church Connections, curated by Dr Rahel Fronda, displaying the wealth of Hebraica and Judaica at Christ Church and around, following the story of Hebrew studies in Oxford from the late 16th century until the end of 18th century. The exhibition was accompanied by a detailed scholarly catalogue in print. This exhibition has benefited from the generous collaboration of the Bodleian Library, Oxford Conservation Consortium, Lincoln College, Merton College, Queens' College in Cambridge, as well as the Westminster Abbey.

The Miniature Stage - 19th Century English Toy Theatre in Christ Church Collections (returning to the Library in Hilary Term 2017)

Among the many treasures of Christ Church Library is a very little known, but extraordinarily valuable and huge collection of theatrical ephemera donated by Francis Bridgford Brady in 1977. Containing tens of thousands of items ranging in date from the 17th to 20th centuries, the collection spans a range of theatrical and entertainment subjects and is an invaluable primary resource for entertainment and wider social history. The exhibition re-opened on 23 January 2017.

Hakluyt@400 Exhibition and Events

As Hakluyt’s old college, Christ Church Library was a key site for this commemorative series and made a distinctive contribution to it. Events started with the opening of the exhibition Hakluyt and Geography in Oxford 1550–1650. This exhibition was launched on 14 October 2016 with a symposium at Christ Church on Renaissance scientific instruments. In November, events included workshops on scientific instruments from the Christ Church collection by Dr Allan Chapman and Dr Johnston; plus, a two-day international conference, Hakluyt and the Discovery of the World, on 24 November at Christ Church, and on 25 November at the Bodleian Library.

Tudor Partbooks and the Music Collection

From 12 May 2016, a selection of Oxford’s early music treasures were on display in the spectacular Upper Library at Christ Church. This special exhibition showcased the music-books used by singers in the age of Queen Elizabeth I, with special emphasis placed on partbooks – matching sets of volumes in which each singer views only her or his own voice-part.

Beazley and Christ Church - 250 Years of Scholarship on Greek Vases

The exhibition presented Sir John Beazley's work and assessed his lasting influence on the study of ancient Greek pottery. The exhibition was open from 26 January to 3 May 2016.

Robert Hooke's Micrographia and Christ Church Science, 1650-1670

Running from 5 November 2015 to 15 January 2016, to mark the 350th anniversary of the publication of Robert Hooke's Micrographia, the first book of microscopy. The event was organized at Christ Church, where Hooke was an undergraduate from 1653 to 1658.

Lewis Carroll and the Art of Photography

During summer of 2015, Christ Church Library hosted an exhibition of Lewis Carroll photographs. This exhibition navigated the medium's early history, bringing together a selection of photographs from the Library's archives, as well as (on loan) from an extensive private collection.

Copper Impressions: Printmakers and Publishing in the 18th Century

The exhibition illustrated what might have been printed on a wooden intaglio rolling press that was located in the Upper Library.