Balliol College Archives & Manuscripts

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Balliol College's special collections fall into several distinct categories, each with its own scope and history: administrative archives, medieval manuscript books, modern personal papers, rare and early printed books, and portraits and other works of art. This website deals with the first three categories; links to information about the others is provided below.

Administrative Archives
The archives, or historic administrative records, of the College concern all aspects of its business, including estates management and ecclesiastical  patronage all over England as well as domestic, academic and financial affairs. The earliest title deed (property ownership document) is dated about 1180; statutes and charters date from 1282; domestic accounts, minutes and membership records survive from about 1500. Later material is extensive – architectural drawings (notably by TG Jackson, Alfred and Paul Waterhouse, and George Basevi); thousands of photographs; documentation of legal affairs, benefactions, and relations with the City of Oxford; ephemeral material concerning social and academic life; several thousand files on deceased members; and so on. [Catalogue of college archives]

Mediaeval Manuscripts
There are over 300 manuscript volumes dated before 1600, many of them exquisite treasures from the library of William Gray, Bishop of Ely, aristocratic bibliophile and major Benefactor who died in 1478. It is of prime importance to anyone interested in any aspect of mediaeval history, life, scholarship, philosophy or art. Our mediaeval collection is the largest private mediaeval library to survive in its original location; it exists not as the work of modern collectors, but as the original core of the College’s Library. One volume has been treasured by the College since 1276. Some were already 200 years old by then. [Catalogue of medieval manuscripts]

Modern Literary, Political, Scientific and Personal Papers
This varied category consists of more than 80 collections, which range from single letters to large collections of papers and include photographs and personal relics and memorabilia as well as professional papers. They are mostly post 1800; a few individual manuscripts date from as early as 1600. Detailed lists are available for many of the collections. [List of modern personal papers collections]

Early Printed Books and Special Collections
The College has over 10,000 books printed before 1800, many of them unique. They are currently shelved partly in the Main Library on the Broad Street site, and partly at St Cross. Work is in progress to have their details incorporated into SOLO, Oxford’s publicly accessible online catalogue. There are also numerous special collections of post-1800 printed books. [Enquiries about early and rare printed books]

Portraits, Topographical Drawings and Prints
The College has nearly 200 portraits and busts, and several hundred topographical drawings and prints. [Catalogue of college portraits]

- Anna Sander

You do not need to request permission to download or print one copy of any of the images on these pages for your personal private study or research purposes.
You do need to request permission in writing to use any of these images for any publication in any format, including any use on a website.

The archives and manuscripts of Balliol College are open by appointment to enquirers in person at the Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell.
Enquiries should be sent in writing (email or post).
There is no charge for Archive enquiries, but donations for Archive purposes are always appreciated.
Updated 11.viii.14
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