Focusing on the first hundred years of the College’s existence, the exhibition introduces its Founder, Richard Fox, powerful Bishop of Winchester and adviser to Henry VII and Henry VIII, and its first President, John Claymond, who laid the foundations of the Library’s great collection. From the start, Corpus—the first Renaissance college at Oxford—was to pursue Humanist ideals of scholarship in three languages: not just Latin, but also Greek and Hebrew, the original languages of the Bible, along with such other subjects as Astronomy, Mathematics, Medicine, and Philosophy.
A series of display-cases present books in each of these languages, including a number that are bilingual and even trilingual. Most notable among them are a group that has been called "the most important collection of Anglo-Jewish manuscripts in the world"; these works of the 12th and 13th centuries include a series of volumes apparently commissioned by Christians from Jews, from which to learn Hebrew and study biblical texts in their original language, as well as the commentaries of Rashi and what is thought to be the oldest surviving Ashkenazi prayer book.
Highlighting Corpus’ role in the development of science and medicine at Oxford, the exhibition finishes with a series of ground-breaking works, from Galileo’s first observation of the moon using a telescope and Sir Isaac Newton’s autograph observations of Halley’s comet to Hooke’s observations of insects using a microscope and Vesalius’ studies of the human body.
Peter Kidd; Guest Curator, Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Peter Kidd has worked with medieval manuscripts for most of the past thirty years, first as a research student, and then in a variety of curatorial roles at the Getty Museum in California (where he put on his first exhibition of illuminated manuscripts), the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the British Library, London. He has published approximately 60 articles, book-reviews, and catalogues about Western European illuminated manuscripts of the 11th to the 16th centuries; his most recent book, just published, is a catalogue of the medieval and Renaissance manuscripts of The Queen’s College, Oxford. He lives in London and works freelance as a researcher and consultant for a variety of commercial and non-profit organizations.