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).
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.
The first leaf contains decorative monograms and watercolours of flowers,
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.
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.
Finally, the manuscript concludes with a poem, and music for the 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.