Until 1700, the College possessed only fifty manuscripts. The earliest given by the founders, and others presented or bequeathed by fellows of the College. Most of these are, as the Statutes required, listed in the Benefactors’ Register (MS 424), their previous ownership evident from the inscriptions in the books themselves.
In 1786 Luttrell Wynne gave over a hundred volumes of parliamentary journals, state and other papers; these came from collections amassed by Narcissus Luttrell and Owen Wynne; and in 1851 Lady Laura Buchan gave the Persian manuscripts collected and used by her father, Colonel Mark Wilks.
Since the publication of the printed catalogue in 1842, the college has acquired manuscripts by purchase, and donation, mostly relating to the College or its fellows.
A limited number of manuscripts have been digitized and images can be viewed via the Library's digital resources site.
All the manuscripts up to MS 296 were described in the Library’s original “Coxe Catalogue”: Coxe, H.O., Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of All Souls College (Oxford, 1842).
This includes all manuscripts acquired prior to 1874 when the catalogue was published. This printed version can be searched via the digitized copy on the Internet Archive. The pre-1550 manuscripts have been fully catalogued in: Watson, Andrew G., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts of All Souls College, Oxford. (Oxford, 1997).
This catalogue includes descriptions of content and structure, as well as history, bindings and provenance information. Manuscripts acquired since 1842 are currently only listed in an in-house, unpublished handlist, which may be consulted on application to the Library staff. An online catalogue comprising the Coxe catalogue and in-house handlist is in preparation; and the Watson catalogue will be made available online in due course.
Covid restrictions mean that appointments are currently very limited, and images are (where possible) offered in lieu of visits. Those needing to consult original materials should contact the Library well in advance to allow for provision of images in the first instance, and for necessary arrangements to be made around current staffing constraints.
If the condition of the manuscript allows, images can be requested for private research, as well as supplied either in lieu of a visit, or as a conservation measure to reduce the handling of fragile materials. For complete works, images will be uploaded to the Library’s website; specific pages may also be requested. For very large orders, it may be necessary to apply fees, but in most cases there is no charge for this service. Under current circumstances, with some staff still working from home, please give as much notice as possible if images are required by a specific date. Images may also be requested for publication, though, at present, it may not be possible to supply images at high resolution; please contact the Library to discuss requirements. All images should be requested via the Image Request Form.