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A modern library

Architects Clare Wright and Kirsty Shankland explain how the project to extend and redevelop the Corpus Library respects the heritage of the site and buildings.

A new home for Corpus' Special Collections

The treasures of the Library of Corpus Christi College have remained largely beyond public gaze for much of the College’s 500-year history. As well as this holding and further biblical manuscripts in other languages, the Library also contains important manuscripts and landmark printed editions on subjects as wide-ranging as theology, medicine, botany, geography, mathematics, music, philosophy, and astronomy, by such luminaries as Aristotle, Homer, Bede, Chaucer, Galileo, and Newton. Although scholars from around the world come to the Library to consult its manuscripts and early printed books, the remarkable quality of the collection – secreted in vaults beneath the College – deserves to be more widely known.

In order for Corpus to realise its strategic priority of outperforming in terms of the quality of teaching, research and environment, alongside safeguarding the marvel and richness of the Library’s treasures for the next generations, space must be found for construction and redevelopment.

 

The College has developed a plan for a new building – The Spencer Building. It will be the permanent, secure and accessible home for the library, archives and collections, and will transform Corpus’ research, teaching, and scholarship. The Spencer Building is the most ambitious building project on the College site for three centuries, and it will bring together for the first time both the modern and historic collections, allowing new research to evolve from the College’s community, for academic and public benefit

The transformative
impact of your support

A transformational lead gift from Lord Michael Spencer (Physics, 1973) has made the establishment of the library possible, for which we are now seeking additional philanthropy. We are eager to bring this momentous capital project to fruition. With your help, we will be able to make the most of this unrivalled opportunity – to secure the future of Corpus’ special collections, contribute to the new build, and bring the College’s manuscripts to light.

The humanities are about generosity of spirit. To date, Corpus’ Old Members and friends have pledged £8.92m towards the project. With a further £2.94m to raise, matched pound for pound from the College endowment funds, we will be able to complete this landmark project. This investment will reshape the College’s research, teaching, and scholarship for generations to come.

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With your support we can write this exciting
new chapter in Corpus’ history.

The Spencer Building will be located within the College premises.

Corpus Christi College, founded in 1517 by Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester and a chief advisor to both King Henry VII and King Henry VIII, was established with radical Renaissance ideas. The College was the first to teach its students Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. In present times, Corpus is one of the smallest colleges that comprises part of the University of Oxford, having around 250 undergraduates and 110 graduates, totalling approximately 400 members of the academic community including academic staff, along with a further 150 registered library members.

Watch the video in which our DPhil student Faseeha gives a tour of Corpus.

Corpus Christi College Library

Corpus Christi College Library is composed of modern and historical collections. Corpus library has approximately 70,000 modern books, a range of print periodical titles and a pamphlet collection containing many off-prints.

 

Historical collections include manuscripts, early printed books, bindings, and the Archives:

 

  • Manuscripts collection: 13 Hebrew manuscripts, dating from the twelfth century onwards; 37 Greek manuscripts; Western medieval manuscripts assembled in the first 170 years of the library’s existence; early modern papers. Corpus was intended to be an institution which would introduce Renaissance humanism to Oxford. Its manuscripts range from humanist items from our earliest days to groups of texts from the late 16th century onwards. These include John Dee's alchemical manuscripts, medieval scientific material and many titles from Old English to Catalan.

 

  • Early printed collection; up to 20,000 volumes printed before 1830. These include: Incunabula (books printed before 1500); 16th, 17th and 18th century political, historical and theological tracts, Theological works – circa 50% of the early printed collection is of a theological nature, encompassing Bibles and Biblical commentaries, editions of the Church Fathers, works of ecclesiastical history, major contributors to Church reform, as well as the literature of contemporary debate and polemic; early printed books on medicine, science and mathematics; dramatic and literary works; rare vernacular works (unique copies of at least 159 English works).

 

  • The Archives: over 10,000 items, including administrative and legal records, estate records, formal and informal records of Corpus Christi activities, and the records of library benefactions.

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