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18 July 2019The Queen’s College Librarian’s guided tour of the C.17th Upper Library and C.21st New Library
04 June 2019V&A Review
22 May 2019Dresden Holiday May 2019 Review
07 May 2019Chavenage House Tetbury Review
28 March 2019Christ Church& Oxford University Real Tennis Court Review
05 February 2019Russia:Royalty and the Romanovs The Queen's Gallery Review
23 January 2019The Art of Islam
12 November 2018Guided Tour of the BMW Mini Works
13 September 2018Sculpture in the Vineyard
28 August 2018Tate Modern, Picasso 1932 - Love Fame, Tragedy.
10 July 2018An Artist's Garden
26 June 2018Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery and the Hospital of St Cross in Winchester
11 June 2018HOLIDAY- North Northumberland
20 April 2018Oxford Union and Exeter College. A Guided tour with Alistair Lack
28 March 2018Compton Verney, Ravilious & Co
28 February 2018Mary Fedden. A voice of her own
25 January 2018Queen's Gallery. Charles II: Art and Power
27 September 2017Oxford Union Murals & Burne-Jones tapestry in Exeter College
12 September 2017Lamport Hall, Northants
05 July 2017Kensington Palace and the Serpentine Gallery
15 May 2017Wellby Collection
11 May 2017Paul Nash and the Wittenham Clumps Walk
26 April 2017HOLIDAY to Naples
07 March 2017Surprising Nudes; Ashmolean leacture
20 February 2017The Oxford of Inspector Morse A Guided walk with Alistair Lack
07 February 2017Paul Nash Exhibition at Tate Britain
14 December 2016Christmas Lunch
10 November 2016Visit to the V&A. Review
01 November 2016Picture Frames at the Ashmolean museum. Review
29 September 2016Guided tour of the Bodleian Library. Review
14 July 2016Shipwrecks - Lecture at the Ashmolean
29 June 2016Madresfield Court & Beauchamp Community, Malvern. Review
25 May 2016Dinah Reynolds at the Ashmolean What is Porcelain – the finest of all Ceramic Wares?
13 April 2016Cookham - Stanley Spencer Gallery and John Lewis Archive
11 February 2016Painting the Modern Garden
02 December 2015Christmas lunch with the Organ Grinder
13 October 2015Windsor Castle
29 July 2015Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
24 June 2015Winchester Flower Festival
02 May 2015ADFAS HOLIDAY: Loire Valley & Monet’s Garden
25 February 2014Royal Albert Hall and a Kensington Museum, London
27 November 2013Australia, Royal Academy, London
26 September 2013Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, Tate Britain, London
10 July 2013Burghley House, Lincolnshire
09 April 2013American Museum, Bath
18 December 2012Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Christmas Cracker Concert, Cadogan Hall, London

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The Queen’s College
Librarian’s guided tour of the
C.17th Upper Library and C.21st New Library

Thursday 18 July 2019

The Queen’s College Library, Oxford 


On 18 July, a group of some 30 AAS members had the rare opportunity of a private viewing of the renowned Queen’s College library in Oxford, led by the scholarly College Librarian, Amanda Saville, ably assisted by Dominic Hewett.  We were first asked how many of us knew which Queen the college’s name honoured.  Apart from one former member, the rest of us were left floundering.   (Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III.) 

Although Queen’s is one of the earlier foundations in Oxford (1341), it presents a remarkably homogeneous neoclassical face to the world, with the bulk of the college dating from the mid to late 18th C.  The Upper Library (built between 1692-5) predates these neoclassical structures, however, and is a fine example of English baroque (with rococo elements juxtaposed in the ceiling plasterwork).  

It is amongst the last of the old “chained” libraries (traces can still be seen), and its harmonious design (once thought to have been by Wren, but now considered to be more likely the work of Dean Aldrich of Christ Church) aimed to ensure that a maximum of natural light reached the reading bays.  The library’s exposure to daylight sadly caused some of the library’s treasures, including two splendid early 18th C globes and a magnificent 1760s orrery (a mechanical model of our solar system), to fade badly over time.  

However, a recent restoration project saw the fitting of special UV blinds and custom-made cases to protect the precious contents and the painstaking repair of the fabric. During these works, the College found original fittings from the reading bays, and reinstated several.  The wrought iron spiral staircase once that led from the cloistered ground level to the upper library space was also located elsewhere in the college buildings, and we heard that consideration is being given to reinstating it.  

These open cloisters were subsequently enclosed and used to create a superb Lower Library space in the 1840s, when part of a huge donation of £30,000 from Mr Mason, an old member, was used for this purpose. The remainder of his bequest, which had to be spent within three years, and only on the library, was used to form a college collection which still counts as one of the most exceptional in the country. This is all the more remarkable because very little of the college’s original collection of mediaeval manuscripts and early printed works survives. 

A further extension, only completed in 2017, saw the library enlarged downwards and outwards, with striking views of the college buildings appearing through the oblique skylights. 

The purchases made from the Mason bequest include a large number of incunables (amongst which we saw a fine late 15th C Flemish Book of Hours); the only Gutenberg book in any Oxford college library; three books printed by Caxton; David Garrick’s own copy of the Shakespeare First Folio; a collection of mediaeval manuscripts specially bound for Henry VIII; Queen Elizabeth I’s sumptuous velvet bound copy of the Greek New Testament; a complete set of Piranesi’s illustrations of the classical world; Gould’s Birds of Europe; the only surviving copy of Coverdale’s Ghostly Psalms; and first editions of such major works as Newton’s Principia Mathematica.  

The College has continued to acquire rare and valuable pieces, such as the original manuscript of Thomas Hardy’s Winter Words, and a 15thC Boccaccio once owned by Pope Pius V and still in its original binding, which came as a gift from Jane Morris (née Burden), muse to the Pre-Raphaelites, and wife of William. She also donated three volumes from the Kelmscott press and other volumes from their library, all bearing the Kelmscott bookplate. 

We were privileged to see and peruse (under Dominic’s watchful eye) many of the aforementioned treasures, along with a superb Tudor (1579) Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales by Saxton. Members took great delight in viewing Berkshire, Oxfordshire and many of their “home” counties in spectacularly bright and beautiful original watercolour.