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Univ and the Museum of the History of Science

In late March, around 450 early printed books came back to the College after an absence of more than 60 years. The books were sent, on long-term loan, to the Museum of the History of Science (MHS) in the early 1960s. As far as the scant surviving paperwork goes, it seems that the books were removed from College for two reasons: a lack of safe storage in College, and because it was thought that the books would complement the existing MHS collections. The dispersal of Univ’s collections was not a new phenomenon: it began in the 1880s when the College deposited 193 manuscripts with the Bodleian Library on revocable loan. Nor was the phenomenon unique to Univ. Many of Oxford’s colleges deposited material with the Bodleian and other Oxford libraries.

In late 2022, in anticipation of the opening of Oxford’s new Collections Teaching and Research Centre on Parks Road, it was decided that the Univ collections at the Museum should be returned to the College. The move happened in the last days of March, hampered slightly by the rain and a lift that tends to break down when it rains.

As identified by the curator of the MHS, Conrad Josten, in the 1960s, there are many treasures in the collection. These include early, illustrated works on anatomy, important treatises on the plague and other diseases, as well as works by Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and Johannes Kepler.

Over the coming months we’re hoping to promote the newly repatriated collection with an exhibition and articles on the Treasures section of the website. Watch this space.

Published: 21 April 2023

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