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Univ’s new Admissions Register

Univ RegisterOne of Univ’s more unusual traditions is that every new member of the College, be they a Fellow or a student, has to enter their name into an Admissions Register, giving details of their age, family, and place of education.

What makes this tradition very special is that we have been doing this ever since 1674. The only substantial change during this time is that, in the 1950s, we switched from writing our entries in the Register from Latin into English.

The series of Admissions Registers in our archives is therefore among our most precious records, because we have in them a sample of the handwriting of everyone who has ever been to Univ in the last three and a half centuries. If you go to the page of Famous Univites elsewhere on the College website, and look at the names of members who have come up since the 1670s, they have all signed their names in our Admissions Register. We think that no other Oxford College has so a rich and continuous a tradition of recording their members’ names.

Signing the Register is still an important part of a new member’s “induction” into the College: nowadays the signing is combined with a visit to the Master’s Lodgings to meet the Master and Lady Crewe.

Until last year, we had filled up five volumes of Admissions Registers, with the current volume begun in the late 1980s. However, when the names of our 2016 Freshers and new Fellows had been entered in, there was no room left in this fifth volume for any more year groups, and therefore a sixth Admissions Register had to be created.

This is more easily said than done: Admissions Registers have to be large volumes, which can be used over many years, and be capable of tolerating regular and heavy handling. In times past when such large volumes were regularly created, as, say, business ledgers, it was not so hard to find bookbinders who could make a new register for the College. However, in the early 21st century, there is far less demand for such books, and the number of specialist bookbinders capable of making them is getting ever fewer.

Fortunately for Univ, we were able to find just such a bookbinder without too much trouble. Arthur Green, the husband of Emily Green, our Assistant Librarian, is a professional bookbinder with extensive experience in both repairing old bindings and creating new ones. We therefore commissioned Arthur to make a new Admissions Register.

This proved an interesting exercise for us all: it was agreed that we should try to create a fine book which could show later generations what 21st century bookbinding could achieve, and so Arthur was encouraged to create something special. The book is leather bound, in our College colours with dark blue leather and gold lettering. He worked closely with the Master and the Archivist to reach a final design, which was all ready for our new members to use this autumn.

We think that we have created something rather special for the College. No doubt later archivists and their users will be combing its pages in many years’ time to seek out the entries of the famous men and women who will have come up to Univ during the book’s working life; but we hope too that they will enjoy the new Register as an excellent example of the bookbinder’s art.

Univ Archivist, Robin Darwall-Smith.

You can see more of Arthur’s work at greensbooks.co.uk

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