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Manuscript Studies
Medieval and Early Modern

VII.iii. Libraries and Archives: Bodleian Library: Principal Collections of Western Manuscripts

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The following information is extracted from the "Conspectus of Shelf-Marks of Western Manuscripts" in Vol. 1 of the Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts, 1953. The original Sum.Cat. covers manuscripts acquired up until 1915 only:
Madan, Falconer, H. H. E. Craster, et al., eds. A Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not Hitherto been Catalogued in the Quarto Series, with References to the Oriental and Other Manuscripts. 7 vols. in 8. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895-1953.
This has recently been supplemented, with respect to post-medieval manuscripts:
Clapinson, Mary, and T. D. Rogers. Summary Catalogue of Post-Medieval Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford: Acquisitions 1916-1975 (SC 37300-55936). 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991.
Other manuscripts acquired since 1915 are listed in a typescript catalogue which can be consulted in Duke Humphrey's Library at the Bodleian.

Because the following list of the collections and the range of shelf marks used in each is based on the information in the original series of the Sum.Cat, it does not reflect any additions since 1915.

The Bodleian collections:

Printed catalogues:

There is no complete set of published descriptions of the manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. In the early part of the nineteenth century, H. O. Coxe published a series of descriptions of some of the main Bodleian collections, and some of these have been reprinted in the 1960s and 70s. Coxe also did a series of catalogues of the manuscripts in the libraries of the various Oxford colleges, and these were reprinted in a 2-volume set in 1852 (Vol. 1 of which was further reprinted in 1972). Various early efforts of seventeenth and eighteenth centuries culminated in the nineteenth-century "Quarto Catalogue": Catalogi codicum manuscriptorum bibliothecæ Bodleianæ 14 parts (some in multiple volumes), Oxford, 1845-1906.

In the late nineteenth century, a new attempt to catalogue the collection was undertaken, under quite different principles. The Western manuscripts were reexamined, and those in collections which had not been catalogued in the Quarto Catalogue (the Bodley collection, etc.) were now catalogued, in the Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts, 7 vols. in 8, 1895-1953, covering the manuscripts acquired before 1915. As the title suggests, this catalogue does not offer a full description of each manuscript, as the Quarto catalogues do, but only an abbreviated description (little physical description, and only the principle contents of each manuscript are listed). Further, the Sum.Cat., instead of using the collection names and shelf marks, arranged its descriptions in order of date of acquisition, thus creating a complete new system of numbering the manuscripts. In order, then, to find a description of, say, MS Rawl. D.788, one must consult the "Conspectus of Shelf-Marks of Western Manuscripts" in Volume 1 of the Sum.Cat., where one will find that Rawl. D 733-95 = Sum.Cat. 13503-65, and so 788 = 13558--and the description of the manuscript may be found in the Summary Catalogue under that number. However, when requesting and consulting the manuscript in Duke Humphrey's Library, one still requires the collection name and shelf mark; therefore it is usual, when making reference to a Bodleian Library manuscript, to give both its shelf mark and its Sum.Cat number. Summary Catalogue numbers 37300-55936 are post-medieval manuscripts acquired since 1915, as catalogued in the Clapinson and Rogers supplement to the Summary Catalogue (cited above).

A narrative and description of the early attempts to catalogue the Bodleian collection is given in the first volume of the Summary Catalogue. A fuller account of the various modern catalogues is given by N. R. Ker in Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969- [in progress; 4 vols. to date]), 3: 582-583.

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[ Course Notes: Introduction ] | [ I. Towards a definition of "manuscript studies" ] | [ I.ii. The four branches of bibliographical study ] | [ I.iii. Topics in the social history of texts ] | I.iii.a The "Rescue" of Medieval Manuscripts from Grocers and Fishmongers | [ II. Diplomatics ] | [ III. Codicology ] | [ III.ii. Decoration and Illumination ] | [ IV. Paleography ] | [ IV.ii. Historical Notes ] | [ IV.iii. Writing Implements ] | [ IV.iv. Letter Formation ] | [ IV.v. Special Characters in English Manuscripts ] | [ IV.vi. Scribal Abbreviations ] | [ IV.vii. Punctuation ] | [ IV.viii. Paleographical sample: William Herebert, OFM (early fourteenth-century England) ] | [ Herebert sample, with transcription ] | [ Herebert sample: enlargement of full page reproduced at high resolution ] | [ V. Textual analysis (James E. Thorpe) ] | [ V.ii. Scribal error ] | [ V.iii. Kinds of edition ] | [ V.iv. Examples of over emendation on insufficient grounds ] | [ VI. Linguistic competence (an example): An Outline History of the English Language ] | [ VII. Libraries and archives: ] | [ VII.ii. British Library Manuscript Collections ] | [ VII.iii. Bodleian Library Manuscript Collections ]

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© 1998, 2015 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
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Created: 2 Dec. 1998; Last revised: 30 May 2015

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