Cambridge Part 5: The Parker Library

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

My very idea of heaven is a library, but this is just ridiculous!

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The building itself was designed by William Wilkins, who also designed the National Gallery.

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Excuse me while I sit on my hands to keep from stroking the bindings inappropriately.

The Parker Library in Corpus Christi College houses one of the most impressive collection of medieval manuscripts in the world, one to make the eyes of a nerd like me absolutely pop out. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, a 15th century Chaucer manuscript, a glossary from the 800s, and the Gospel of St. Augustine, which is considered the oldest book in Britain and is believed to have been brought to the country by St. Augustine of Canterbury when he first came to spread Christianity to the English. It’s the oldest illustrated gospel in the Western world, and is used at the enthronements of the Archbishops of Canterbury.

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The library’s collection can really be attributed to the 16th century clergyman Matthew Parker. He served as the private chaplain of Queen Anne Boleyn and under Queen Elizabeth I became Archbishop of Canterbury. We owe his collection to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, after which the centuries old libraries that these institutions once houses were flung far and wide. Parker got permission to collect whatever books he found useful, and thank goodness. His collection includes a quarter of all known Anglo Saxon manuscripts today.

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A letter written by Anne Boleyn to her father while she was serving as a lady-in-waiting at the French court.

For the open day, the library also included several pieces from the personal collection of Dr. John C. Taylor, who designed the Corpus Clock.

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In other words, Jeff had to drag me away from this place…

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