Corpus Christi College Oxford

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A major legacy of Corpus’ original Renaissance “mission” is its Special Collection: the extraordinary 500 manuscripts and 20,000 early printed books, many in the three ancient languages and gathered over centuries that make Corpus’ library unique.

Thirteen early mediaeval Hebrew manuscripts form the core and most precious part of the Special Collection, which includes one of the oldest Siddurs in existence as well as manuscript commentaries and texts that were used in the translation of the King James Bible, undertaken at Corpus itself. Other treasures – to name only a few – include the illuminated Bible believed originally to have been made for King Francis of France and then owned by General James Oglethorpe, a Corpus alumnus and founder of the American colony Georgia; a ninth-century Aristotle text; 27 letters between Sir Isaac Newton and the Astronomer Royal; and 73 manuscripts belonging to the alchemist and celebrated astrologer, John Dee, confidant to Elizabeth I.

Corpus’s collection is housed in far-from-ideal conditions in the basement of one of the College’s eighteenth-century buildings, on the site of the original College well. Determined to provide for the proper custody of this priceless and irreplaceable heritage, Corpus has made detailed plans to build a state-of-the-art extension to the sixteenth-century building in which the Library, still in daily use by undergraduates and graduates, sits today. Full planning permission has now been granted for the project will include a public exhibition room and will create a new, secure space for the Special Collection, making it accessible to visiting scholars.

The total build cost is forecast to be £27 million. The College is committed to raising £18 million from outside philanthropic sources. To date, the College has raised £2 million in private donations towards this project and has allocated £2m from its own reserves.






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