A new manuscript

Exeter’s latest addition to the special collections is a letter dated 1822 from Alexander Dyce ( 1798-1869) to C.E. Walker, then a student at Exeter College.

MS 40 Dyce portrait

The letter takes the form of a humorous poem in eight verses and refers nostalgically to term time habits and acquaintances:

MS 40 page 1

In your lone chamber in the Quad of Hell,

Whose single window scarce can banish gloom,

The ceaseless ringing of the Chapel-bell

Once more you hear (- at least so I presume)

Once more do strict collegiate laws compel

Your tardy steps to Forshall’s lecture-room;

Once more you share the Supper-party’s din-

And next day’s headache from excess in gin.

Alexander Dyce studied at Exeter College from 1816 to 1819, graduating with a third in Classics. The Forshall he refers to is Josiah Forshall (1795-1863) administrator at the British Museum, who was elected a Fellow of Exeter in 1819 soon after his graduation and tutored there from 1822 to 1824 prior to his appointment as the assistant librarian in the Department of Manuscripts of the British Museum.

After graduating, at his father’s insistence, Dyce was ordained as an Anglican priest and served in curacies at Lanteglos near Fowey in Cornwall from 1822 to 1824. The letter shows that he had mixed feelings about his position at Lanteglos and longing for the literary life in London which he was to take up in earnest in the summer of 1826.

Charles Edward Walker was at Exeter College from 1820 to 1824. He was the author of several plays, including Sigesmar the Switzer (1818), Wallace, a historical tragedy (1820) and The Fall of Algiers a comic opera (1823).

Joanna Bowring, College Librarian




Exeter College in the 1920s


In 1920 a young French man, Jean Fayard, arrived at Exeter College Oxford to study English Literature. He left without taking his degree, and went on to become a writer and journalist, winning the Prix Goncourt in 1931.

Exeter College Library has his second book ,Oxford et Margaret, which was published in 1924 with a second illustrated edition four years later.


Oxford et Margaret by Jean Fayard

The novel shows Oxford college life from the position of an outsider. The hero, Jacques Dolent, arrives at Exeter College from the Lycee Janson-de-Sailly (coincidentally the same school as Jean Fayard), full of quaint notions about Oxford (the medieval architecture, Dickensian inns, students parading the streets in gowns etc.) – and finds them all to be true!


View from Exeter study

He arrives at Exeter after a series of attempts to go elsewhere: Magdalen and Christchurch ( too grand and his parents disapproved ‘Le snobbisme est une des basses forms de l’orgueil’), Merton (not accepted), Queen’s (ditto). Despite not being his first choice he grows fond of his college with its peaceful enclosed  garden overlooking Radcliffe Square.

Many aspects of Oxford life are touched on in the novel:

The river, the barges and boathouses :

The city, its buildings and institutions:


Magdalen Bridge


And above all, College its manners and mores:




This novel is a useful alternative to Brideshead for readers interested in Oxford at that period.

In Exeter’s copy of the first edition  Fayard has written an inscription on the title page:

‘La distance ou Oxford se trouvait de tout prejuge, son amour du tres beau et sa repugnance aux enthousiasmes faciles faisaient de cette ville une chose passee et un peu indifferent aux efforts inutiles de generations vers le “Progres”. J. Fayard’.





Exeter College acquires a new manuscript


The College Library has just acquired a black cloth-bound notebook containing  notes on the lectures of the composer John Stainer (1840-1901). Stainer was a popular composer in his day, and an Oxford figure having been organist at Magdalen College and later in life Heather Professor of Music at the university. He was also churchwarden at St Cross Church, and is buried there. Coincidentally, Exeter College Choir are singing an anthem by Stainer on 22nd May 2016.

The notes are the work of the organist of Exeter College in the 1870s, Joseph Cox Bridge (1853-1929) although the notebook obviously once belonged to his elder brother, Frederick Bridge , long-serving organist at Westminster Abbey as it says at the front in large blue crayon ‘Stolen from JF Bridge Cloisters Westminster’.

title pages

The manuscript falls into three parts: first Bridge’s account of instruments, instrumentation, and the structure of a symphony, with particular emphasis on Beethoven’s works including the Pastoral, derived from Stainer’s lectures and dated 1872; next, are notes on John Pyke Hullah’s ‘History of Modern Music’; lastly there are notes from John Hawkins’ ‘History of Music’, concluding with a section called ‘Answers to Ques’ which appears to be preparation for an examination.


Altogether the notebook sheds an interesting light on music education during this period.

Music.jpgNotes on percussion.jpg

The manuscript has been added to Exeter’s small collection of music manuscripts, chiefly a collection of Thomas Wood’s scores and notebooks. Thomas Wood (1892-1950) was a composer and author who lectured at Exeter College to great acclaim in the 1920s.

Joanna Bowring

College Librarian April 2016



Countdown to moving the special collections to Cohen Quad: Francis Turner Palgrave (1824-1897)

Palgrave by Elliott and Fry

Palgrave by Elliott and Fry

To celebrate National Poetry Day I am featuring the Victorian critic, anthologist, and poet Francis Turner Palgrave who was a Fellow of Exeter College from 1847 to 1862. He is probably best known for his anthology of verse ‘The Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics’ (1861) widely considered to be an important contribution to the development of English literary taste, as it gathered together what in Palgrave’s opinion were the finest examples of English poetry.

The Golden Treasury published in 1861

The Golden Treasury published in 1861

Golden Treasury verse

As well as copies of the Golden Treasury, Exeter College library has over a dozen other works by Palgrave including art criticism and volumes of hymns and poetry, the majority donated by the author.


Among them there is The Handbook to the Fine Art Collections in the International Exhibition of 1862 which Palgrave had been commissioned to write . This caused a minor scandal when it was published as he was judged to have overly praised his close friend the sculptor Thomas Woolner and denigrated Woolner’s artistic rivals. William Holman Hunt waded into the controversy, writing in support of Palgrave and Woolner but Palgrave was forced to withdraw the catalogue.

International Exhibition handbook

Palgrave was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1885 and held the post for ten years. He had been in the race for the poetry post earlier in his career, we have a copy of his letter to the Times standing down from the contest in 1877.

Letter to the Times

Letter to the Times

In 1862, Palgrave had married Cecil Grenville Milnes, the daughter of the Wakefield M.P. James Milnes-Gaskell. Indeed, he had resigned his fellowship at Exeter College for her because dons at the time had to be unmarried.

I close with one of Palgrave’s poems, the Prothalamion, a marriage song not to his own wife but to Princess Mary of Teck on the occasion of her wedding on  6th July 1893 to George Duke of York, later George V.

Prothalamion first page

Joanna Bowring, College Librarian

Week 89 : Some setbacks

Apologies for the slight hiatus in updates from Exeter’s Library’s special collections, we have had a few unwelcome storage issues to contend with here.

Planning for the move of our rare books and manuscripts to their new home in Cohen Quad (Walton Street) was proceeding well, just up until we discovered we had a serious mould problem in one of our rare books storage rooms.

Harwell in basement

Harwell Support Services test the walls for damp

We called In Harwell Support Services to assess the problem and advise us on how to treat it. Curiously the environmental conditions in the room are fine now, but it is thought that floods in the room in past years probably caused the mould to grow, and correcting the temperature and humidity did not kill it off. It’s a relief to know that Harwell can remedy things. They will come for several months in the summer and painstakingly work through the collection volume by volume, removing dirt and any mould. The entire space will be treated with air scrubbers to remove any stray spores.

Just as we had dealt with this, the wall in one of our other stores developed a large crack.

staircase 9 stack

2,500 books dating from the 17th to the 18th centuries on the history of the early church had to be moved out while the room was repaired, and then stored elsewhere until the relative humidity came down to acceptable levels. These books will also be cleaned by specialist conservators.

On a positive note, we can now at least be sure that all the books will be clean before being moved to their pristine new accommodation in Cohen Quad.

Normal blogging will now resume – unless other parts of this beautiful, but sadly crumbling, library decide to spring more surprises on us!

Joanna Bowring

College Librarian

Week 90: Exeter College in World War II

On the seventieth anniversary of V.E. Day, the Chaplain looks back at the College life during the Second World War with the help of the College publication, the Exeter College Association Register, which is still published annually.

Register war

During the War, Lincoln College, whose buildings were requisitioned for the duration, moved into share Exeter’s. Student numbers were much diminished, as can be seen by the 1944 matriculation photograph.

Lincoln College moves in with Exeter College 1944

Lincoln College moves in with Exeter College 1944

Academic activities were also steadily curtailed and directed increasingly to war-related work such as that of the Air Squadron, the Naval Division, the Home Guard, and all of the various forms of Civil Defence. Men reading for Medicine and Science were allowed to complete their academic studies, but the majority of Arts students were not permitted to reside in College for more than one year, and were during that brief period compelled to spend an inordinate amount of time on training for war, which all too often they had to repeat when they joined for full-time service. Yet despite these exacting demands, they never flagged in their zeal for study, as the list of First Classes shows.

It is odd to read College Orders for such things as the formation of fire-squads and the payment of fire-fighters who volunteered to remain up in the vacation, or the installation of static water tanks on the quad. Every able-bodied resident in College had been assigned his part in case of an incident, and there were not likely to be many occupants of ‘the trench’ –shelters in the fellows’ garden – in fact only two persons are known ever to have occupied them, and one of these caught a violent cold as a reward for his obedience to orders!

More heartening is a resolution of May 1943 to the effect that the College bell should be rung again as of yore. Now, in peace we look back at the days when, at the sound of the siren the high table dinner was moved to the ante-chamber of the dons’ bath, and undergraduates were bidden to collect their food at the buttery and consume it in their rooms.

We had become inured to war.

The decision that Exeter should be used during the war for the housing of undergraduates and cadets meant that a considerable staff needed to be employed, and the staffing problem was the more serious because many of Exeter’s staff were young  and would inevitably be required for war.  The heaviest burden of all fell on the kitchen, which was soon bereft of all of the male cooks except the Chef himself.

All things come to an end, even totalitarian war. Trinity Term 1945 opened with the bright omen of imminent victory, and soon that hope was realised. On 8 May there was a Thanksgiving Service in Chapel, during which the names of the fallen belonging to Exeter and Lincoln Colleges were read out by the Rectors of the two colleges. In the evening there was a dinner in Hall, at which the Rector gave the toast of ‘The United Nations,’ still a name to conjure with.

Exeter's War Memorial

Exeter’s War Memorial

Rev’d Andrew Allen

College Chaplain

Bishop Radford Fellow, and Editor of Exeter College Register

Week 91: Exeter College and the West Country – tin mining in Devon

This week I am writing about a small book in Exeter’s special collection known as the Statutes of the Stannary or the Tinners’ Charter. It is a small book but an important one because, as far as is known, the copy in Exeter College Library is the only one still in existence.


It is a collection of legal documents regulating the Devonshire tin mining industry in the sixteenth century, comprising statutes for the years 1510, 1532 and 1533 together with a copy of the charter issued by King Edward I in 1305.

By the early 16th century the extraction of tin was big business and many tinworks were in operation on Dartmoor:

“every valley and many hillslopes would have witnessed activity, with the movement of men, timber, ironwork, ore and ingots being a commonplace sight… The noise of stamping machinery and bellows, and the sight of smoke from furnaces, at scores of tin mills and blowing mills would have been familiar …” [Greeves & Newman, p. 15]

The Devon miners held regular legislative assemblies called Great Courts or Parliaments, huge open-air meetings held at a desolate spot on Dartmoor, Crocken Tor.  Thirteen Great Courts were held between 1474 and 1786.

 "Crockern Tor, Dartmoor" by Smalljim - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crockern_Tor,_Dartmoor.jpg#/media/File:Crockern_Tor,_Dartmoor.jpg

“Crockern Tor, Dartmoor” by Smalljim

It must have been quite a sight to see the miners gathering at the Tor in such large numbers (there were always at least 96 men elected to attend, as well as representatives of the Crown and many spectators).

The book begins with the words ‘Here foloyth the confirmation of the Charter perteynynge to all the tynners wythyn the countey of devonshyre with there statutes also made at crockeryntorre by the hole assent and consent of al the sayd tynners yn the yere of the reygne of our soverayne Lord Kynge Henry ye viii the second yere [1510].

Title page

It was printed at the new printing press at Tavistock Abbey in 1533.

The members of the Great Courts are all listed, a fine roll of Devon names representing the four stannary courts at Chagford, Ashburton, Tavistock and Plympton.

Names of jurates

Names of jurates

The statutes reveal a highly organised industry, with the rights and responsibilities of tinners well documented. Those who transgressed the statues were punished at the stannary courts with fines and even imprisonment.

Exeter’s book was left to the College in 1774 in the will of  Joseph Sanford a fellow commoner of Exeter.  In 1739, someone (possibly Sanford) wrote on the flyleaf in Latin ‘This is the only example of this book yet discovered in England’.


See also The Great Courts of Devon Tinners 1510 and 1710 by Tom Greeves and Phil Newman. Dartmoor Tinworking Research Group, 2011.

Joanna Bowring

College Librarian



Week 92: Betting in the Common Room – College betting books

College betting books were a common feature of collegiate life in Oxford. They record all the wagers made between Fellows in the Senior Common Room (SCR) and they are a mine of historical detail, evoking a world of collegiate friendships and rivalries, political debates, idle conversation after dinner and gentle teasing while on a boat on the river or lounging on Portmeadow. The bets generally follow a common formula – X bets Y a certain stake (usually bottles of wine or port) that something will or will not occur.

Exeter College’s first SCR betting book begins in 1812 and runs until 1837.  The nature of the bets recorded illustrates the ‘genteel but not intellectual’ ethos of the College in those days.

Betting Book 1812

Betting Book 1812 entry. Sibthorpe catches a goose

The book was presented by Humphrey Waldo Sibthorpe, who features in many of the early bets, including winning one that he would catch a goose:

“Jones bets Sibthorpe that he (Sibthorpe) does not catch a goose on Portmeadow on foot. Dated – Houseboat off Portmeadow, June 22nd 1812. Sibthorpe won.”

There is a later bet on how many throws it would take to hit a willow tree:

Forshall bets Yonge that he hits the willow on the other side of the river in ten throws. April 16th 1822. Forshall won.

Betting book 1822

Betting book 1822 entry. Hitting the willow.

Bets on the matrimonial chances of the Fellows, who had to resign their fellowships on marriage, and on sporting feats, reflect the relative youth of the Fellowship at that time. There are early signs of Exeter’s future prowess in athletics (the College formed the first Athletics Club in the university in 1850) in bets on races between milestones at Kidlington in 1817, and a failed bet that Exeter’s boat, the White Boat, would be Head of the River in 1831.

The White Boat 1824

The White Boat 1824

Kidlington race bet 1817

Kidlington race bet 1817

There are bets in 1820 on the cost of furniture for the Common Room, and that the two pear trees in the garden would produce 200 pears in one harvest.

Betting on the weight of pears 1820

Betting on the number of pears 1820

Fellows also wagered (rather rudely) on the weight of one of their number:

“Johnson bets Eliot that he (Eliot) weighs more than 170 lbs – Johnson lost”

William Dalby, who matriculated aged 15 and was made a fellow 3 years later, aged 18, took on a bet in November 1812 to give the number of volumes in the Library within thirty minutes. The outcome is not given.

How many books in the library?

How many books in the library

The bets touch on national politics as well as College life. In the early period there are many bets on the situation in France and the outcome of the war with Napoleon. One bet in March 1815 predicted that ‘ Buonaparte will be in possession of the country from Cologne to Basle by 1st July ‘ and a later one speculated on his ability to escape from St Helena within a year of arrival.

Betting on Napoleon

Betting on Napoleon

Interest in domestic politics are seen in bets on the position of the prime minister (Lord Liverpool) and taxes, including the Property (or income) tax, introduced as an emergency tax during the French Wars and retained after 1815.

Election pledges were also scrutinised and a bet on the repeal of the Malt Tax in 1835, to produce a list of MPs who had voted against their election pledges in order to support Robert Peel, has echoes of more recent political U-turns.

Betting on election pledges

Betting on election pledges

This page also includes a bet on the height of Ben Nevis and an election result in Devon.

Bets on coronation of George IV

Bets on coronation of George IV

Interest in the  activities of the Royal family resulted in bets in 1820 on cries of ‘Long Live Queen Charlotte’ at the coronation of George IV and the outcome of the Parliamentary enquiry into his queen, Caroline of Brunswick.

Last entry (1837)

Last entry (1837)

And the final entry in May 1837 predicts the death of William IV and his consort, Queen Adelaide before the end of the year. William did die on 20 June 1837 and was succeeded by his niece, Victoria.  Adelaide, who had been dangerously ill in April 1837, recovered and lived as Queen Dowager until the age of 57, dying in December 1849.

Penny Baker

College Archivist

Week 93: an unusual wedding gift

This week’s item from the special collections is a wedding present made for John Arthur Ruskin Munro (1864-1944), who was an undergraduate at Exeter College (1882-1886).

J.A.R. Munro (image supplied by Lincoln College Oxford)

J.A.R. Munro (image supplied by Lincoln College Oxford)

A picture of the hall at Exeter College is on the front cover and the book contains an assortment of music and lyrics. It was created with ‘best wishes for a happy future’ on the occasion of Munro’s marriage to Margaret ‘Birdie’ Neaves.

Munro manuscript

The first leaf contains decorative monograms and watercolours of flowers,

Munro 2 ded

and the names of the happy couple and the bridegroom’s brother are in pictograms at the top of the page: ‘birdie’ Munro (the bride), ‘jar’ John Arthur Ruskin Munro and ‘ham’ Henry Acland Munro.

Munro 2 ded

We might guess that the book was made by a Violet W. as a sprig of violets and the initial ‘w’ can be seen at the bottom of the page.

The book contains 21 Scottish songs, and melodies for the piano and violin, and each page is decorated with charming, hand painted flowers and figures and laboriously copied lyrics.

Munro thistle contents Munro music Munro lyrics Munro intro

Finally, the manuscript concludes with a poem, and music for the wedding march

Munro goodbye Munro wedding march

John Ruskin Munro was the son of the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Alexander Munro, the artist who created the relief of King Arthur and his knights above the entrance to the Oxford Union. John was educated at Charterhouse and then studied Classics at Exeter College. He later became an archaeologist and historian. From 1919 to 1944 he was Rector of Lincoln College Oxford.

This little manuscript provides a tantalising glimpse of a time when people made their own entertainment (and wedding gifts), and weddings were occasions for some original poetry and a lot of jolly Scottish dancing.

Joanna Bowring

College Librarian

Week 94: ‘was there ever such a king of Brittayne as Arthur?’ and other 17c tutorial questions

What was teaching, and learning, like in a 17th century Oxford college? How did it differ from today?

Well, at Exeter College we now have a much better idea as we have acquired the manuscript teaching notes of Exeter’s Rector Prideaux (1578-1650).

Prideaux's teaching notes 1637-41

Prideaux’s teaching notes 1637-41

John Prideaux was the son of a poor Devon farmer. He walked from the West Country to Oxford and was engaged as a college servant at Exeter College, rising to become Rector of Exeter College, royal chaplain, Regius professor of Divinity, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and Bishop of Worcester.

John Prideaux 1578-1650

John Prideaux 1578-1650

Even before he became Rector, Prideaux was acclaimed as a tutor and theologian. His teaching methods were popular, resulting in a series of published textbooks on such subjects as history and moral philosophy.

Chapter on geography

Chapter on geography

The manuscript we now have comprises Prideaux’s notes on geography, history both ‘profane’ and ecclesiastical, law and philosophy. Topics covered include ancient and modern political history from Nimrod to Ferdinand II, English history from the time of myths to that of Charles I, and a ‘view of eccelisticall history to this present 1638’ (from ‘good bishops’ to ‘luxurious Sodomites’ to incureable Babylonians’.

Britain's mythical past discussed

Britain’s mythical past discussed

Chapter on prophane history

Chapter on prophane history

Marvellously, each chapter ends with a number of ‘Inquiries’  – points for discussion between tutor and pupils.

Geographical questions include: ‘whether America was first discovered by Christopher Columbus … whether the Pope had the right to give America to the King of Spayne … whether the Northwest passage to the East Indyes may be hoped for’ … ‘whether the moon be habbitable’

Questions on geography

Questions on geography

The historical ‘inquiryes’ include whether ‘The Conquerors [William I] title to the crowne were feasible … whether the tales of Robin Hood and Little John have any warrantable ground … whether [Henry VIII’s] proceedings  were just against his Queene Anne Bulloyne’ …whether the Powder plot were the most inhumane and devilish designe that was ever undertaken’

The manuscript is thought to have originated from the library of the Earls of Shaftesbury at Wimborne St Giles in Dorset. Anthony Ashley Cooper (1621-1683), the first Earl of Shaftesbury, was a pupil of Prideaux’s at Exeter College from 1637-38 and it is likely that the first part of the book, ‘An Insight into Geography’ was acquired by Ashley Cooper at that time and then the later parts of the manuscript were bound with it at his request.

Fortuitously, the manuscript came up for sale in the 700th anniversary year of the College, and College fellows purchased it for the library to mark both the anniversary and the rectorship of Frances Cairncross (Rector 2004-14).

It provides a remarkable insight into teaching methods and what was being studied at Exeter College in the mid 17th century.

Joanna Bowring

College Librarian