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Collecting Beyond the Book: Oxford Libraries as Cabinets of Curiosities
Oxford, January 2000

Collecting Beyond the Book: Oxford Libraries as Cabinets of Curiosities

Christ Church, Oxford

Saturday 15 January 2000

Call for Papers

The history of collecting is a well-established discipline. Yet its
insights and practices have never been applied to Oxford libraries, which
continued to be studied and described purely in terms of their holdings of
books and manuscripts.  This reflects nineteenth- and twentieth-century
reorganisation of the earlier Oxford collections, in which printed books,
manuscripts and music were separated from coins and medals; portraits,
prints and drawings were displayed in a different building from
anatomical, botanical and mineralogical specimens; musical instruments and
curiosities were divided from mathematical instruments and globes.  This
process involved a significant loss of the context these various objects
had originally shared when housed together in libraries which were
cabinets, rather than mere book-repositories. 

It is the aim of this conference to consider ways in which, through
changes in practice in writing Oxford library history, and in methods of
cataloguing collections, we may recover some of their original meaning. 
For the objects which made up these collections have been divided, but not
lost or dispersed; most are still in Oxford. 

Christ Church Library will provide the focus for some of the papers.  In
the eighteenth century the Library contained pictures, prints and
drawings.  These are now in the adjacent Picture Gallery.  The Library
also housed the 4th Earl of Orrery’s vast collection of books and
scientific instruments.  These last have been transferred to the Museum of
the History of Science, while the Library’s holdings of coins and medals
are now in the Ashmolean.  Delegates will be able to view some of the
collections, and attend a reception in the Picture Gallery. 

Enquiries and abstracts (by 1 July 1999) to:
Mark Purcell
The Library
Christ Church
Oxford OX1 1DP

Christopher Baker, Kate Bennett, Mark Purcell,
8th March, 1999