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The Allestree Library at Christ Church, Oxford

The Library

There is a bias towards theology, but there are many other subjects, including classics, science, medicine, mathematics, and patristics. As a discrete collection, Allestree's library is fascinating in many ways.

In addition, there are 138 books formerly owned by Henry Hammond (1605-1660), and the parochial library of Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, deposited here for safekeeping. These latter volumes, about 300 chiefly seventeenth-century theological works with a bias towards Oriental studies, were originally left to Wotton by John Okes (d. 1710), a St. Edmund Hall man. Many of the books bear the names of members of the Cholmondely family, who held the patronage of Okes' living at Whitegate, Cheshire, which he held from 1665 till deprived as a non-juror in 1689.

Until recently, however, the little room, probably of medieval origin but fitted up as the Allestree Library as soon as the bequest arrived, in which the books have been kept has been in a rather sorry state, prone to huge fluctuations in temperature and humidity which caused mould and mildew. Some books showed signs of being meals for book-worms and silverfish. It was rather grubby, and in need of a professional deep-clean and redecoration. Some of the shelving was unsuitable for the storage of rare books. And the floor, which is made up of a wonderful collection of medieval tiles, cried out for proper recording and preservation.

Now, however, in April 2012, a project for the refurbishment of the Allestree Library has been completed, thanks to grants from the Marc Fitch Trust, from Christ Church alumni, and from the Governing Body. A new heating and dehumidification system has been installed which has created steady conditions and a vastly-improved environment for the books; old shelving against damp, cold walls has been removed and replaced with new, made-to-measure bookcases; the books have all been cleaned and preparations made for the most damaged to be conserved and boxed; and the previously unknown medieval tiles are to be recorded and published for the first time.

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last updated: jcm/15-Dec-2014