A trove of lit­er­ary riches, rarely seen, ar­rives in Wash­ing­ton from Eng­land

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - BY ROGER CATLIN

Five hun­dred years ago, Cor­pus Christi Col­lege was es­tab­lished at the Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford in Eng­land, emerg­ing in the Re­nais­sance era to be­come one of the first colleges there ded­i­cated to hu­man­ist ideals while spe­cial­iz­ing in the clas­sics in three lan­guages.

Its rare manuscripts and early printed books are closed to the pub­lic — even in Ox­ford. But to mark the col­lege’s quin­cen­te­nary, a trav­el­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of 53 rare items dat­ing as far back as the 10th cen­tury is mak­ing two stops in the United States — first in Wash­ing­ton, at the Folger Shake­speare Li­brary.

“500 Years of Trea­sures From Ox­ford” con­cen­trates on rare items from the first 100 years of the col­lege, which was founded by Richard Fox, an ad­viser to King Henry VII and Henry VIII.

Here are some num­bers re­lated to the show:


The year Cor­pus Christi Col­lege at Ox­ford was founded by Richard Fox, bishop of Durham in 1494 and Winch­ester in 1501, who be­gan by do­nat­ing books to its li­brary.


Num­ber of ma­jor lan­guages ini­tially stud­ied in the mul­ti­lin­gual li­brary: Latin, Greek, He­brew.


Num­ber of cen­turies spanned by ob­jects in the ex­hi­bi­tion, which orig­i­nates from the 10th through 17th cen­turies.


Num­ber of sec­tions into which the ex­hi­bi­tion is di­vided, cov­er­ing its trilin­gual li­brary; books in Latin, Greek and He­brew; later English ac­qui­si­tions; scrip­tures; and sci­ence.


Num­ber of ar­ti­facts in show, none of which have been seen in the United States.


Es­ti­mated age of the old­est man­u­script on dis­play, a Greek com­men­tary on the Psalms by St. Basil the Great of Cae­sarea.


Num­ber of the col­lege founder’s sil­ver-gilt epis­co­pal ob­jects in the ex­hi­bi­tion. Nor­mally, they are kept on dis­play at the Ash­molean Mu­seum in Ox­ford.


Num­ber of locks guard­ing the foun­da­tion char­ter for the col­lege: three on a 500-year-old chest, which is on dis­play; three more on a larger chest in which that was kept; and three more on the door of the tower room in which it was stored.


Teams of trans­la­tors that worked on cre­at­ing the King James Bi­ble at Cor­pus Christi Col­lege af­ter John Rain­olds, then the col­lege’s pres­i­dent, con­vinced King James in 1604 that a new trans­la­tion was needed.


Sets of records that still ex­ist of the de­lib­er­a­tions of the King James re­vis­ing com­mit­tee; one is part of the ex­hi­bi­tion.


Reg­nal num­ber of French King Louis, who was likely the first re­cip­i­ent of the lav­ishly il­lus­trated 16th-cen­tury Oglethorpe Bi­ble on dis­play, so named be­cause it was do­nated to the col­lege by James Oglethorpe, who also founded the Amer­i­can colony that would be­come the state of Ge­or­gia.


Num­ber of sto­ries in Chaucer’s “The Can­ter­bury Tales.” An early 15th-cen­tury copy by a pro­fes­sional scribe in­cludes in­struc­tions for fu­ture il­lu­mi­na­tion.


The year one of the first de­pic­tions of Amer­ica on a map came in a pic­ture of the globe in the book “Cos­mo­graphia,” printed in An­twerp, Bel­gium, and in­cluded in the show.


Num­ber of de­pic­tions of the moon in the ex­hi­bi­tion. One was a sketch by the owner of Galileo’s 1610 book that first de­scribes the sur­face from the tele­scope he had built two months ear­lier. The other is a much more de­tailed il­lus­tra­tion pub­lished in a 1647 book by Jo­hannes Hevelius.


Year that two vis­i­ble comets over Europe caused Sir Isaac New­ton to write to the royal as­tronomer in a let­ter in­cluded in the ex­hi­bi­tion. It turned out to be what we now know as Hal­ley’s comet.


The next year that Hal­ley’s comet will be vis­i­ble.


Cur­rent num­ber of stu­dents at Cor­pus Christi Col­lege at Ox­ford — 240 un­der­grad­u­ates and 115 grad­u­ate stu­dents.


Num­ber of books in the col­lege’s 16th-cen­tury li­brary.


Num­ber of U.S. stops for “500 Years of Trea­sures From Ox­ford.” Af­ter the Folger, it heads to the Yeshiva Uni­ver­sity Mu­seum at the Cen­ter for Jewish His­tory in New York from May 14 through Aug. 6.


Cost of ad­mis­sion to the Folger Shake­speare Li­brary.

500 Years of Trea­sures From Ox­ford Through April 30 at the Folger Shake­speare Li­brary, 201 E. Capi­tol St. SE. Free. 202-544-4600. folger.edu.

These rare manuscripts and early printed books are closed to the pub­lic — even in Ox­ford.

An English missal lay­ing out the Sarum litur­gi­cal rite, dated 1398, fea­tured in the col­lec­tion of Cor­pus Christi Col­lege at Ox­ford. Fac­ing the full-page pic­ture, the two small spa­ces in the first col­umn of text are where ref­er­ences to the pope were erased dur­ing the Re­for­ma­tion.

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