The following article appears in the 2014 Jesus College Record.
The Fellows’ Library is known for its treasures, including the first edition of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica. But this 17th-century time capsule preserves much else besides: from a hoax description of Taiwan and sincere conversations with angels, to a defence of ‘the woman-physician’ and an exposé of legal mystification.
Throughout 2014 we have displayed a different book each month for the appreciation of Fellows and their guests. The Library’s graduate trainees have condensed into 200 words the story of each of these books – how it came to be written and how it found its way to Jesus. These accounts have been published on the new Library blog, in order to reach Old Members and others without a regular opportunity to enjoy seeing the books in their historic setting.
The twelve books, in order of publication, are: The Exercise of Armes (1608); Psalmes, Songs, and Sonnets (1611); Y Bibl Cyssegr-lan (1620); Insectorum (1634); Mathematicall Magick (1648); The Extravagant Shepherd (1653); Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits (1659); The History of Lapland (1674); Medicatrix (1675); An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa (1705); Law Quibbles (1726); and The Faerie Queene (1758). All the books are photographed and described at jesuslibraries.wordpress.com/category/book-of-the-month/
The collection surely holds much more of interest. We were able to show our 18th-century edition of The Faerie Queene, thanks to the generosity of Old Member Dr Julie Bowdler in supporting its sensitive conservation, but many books are currently too fragile to be displayed, and a full cataloguing project will one day make more discoveries.
Owen McKnight (Librarian)