Thursday, 10th November, 2016

Well, it had to happen. Today is the middle day of our time in England, the 48th day. It certainly doesn't seem anything like as long as 48 days. I suppose it's because we are filling our time with so many amazing things that there is simply no time to think!

Not counting a quick trip to the Tourist Information for maps and possible things to see, our first visit today was to the Sheldonian Theatre. This was built from 1664-1669 and is used for a variety of purposes including Graduations and concerts. It is possible to get all the way up to the cupola at the top from which one gets great views of Oxford in all directions.



The Sheldonian Theatre - an unexpected problem - too much sunlight!




The ceiling


The Organ

The Organ


organ detail

Detail of the Organ





The views above were all taken through glass so there are some reflections - sorry!


Divinity School

The Divinity School built between 1427 and 1483 is the oldest surviving purpose-built building in the University. For hundreds of years, students did not receive degrees through examinations but rather by a kind of debate. The student would be in a pulpit on one side and the examiner on the other. A professor would be seated in the middle. This would have been hard enough but all the other students were also present and the whole debate was conducted in Latin!


We went on a tour into the Bodleian Library but photos were strictly prohibited. Those below were found on internet for your viewing pleasure.



Inside the Bodleian Library. The books all used to be chained to the wall and were kept with the spines to the back of the shelves. Some scenes of "Harry Potter" were filmed here.


Radcliffe Camera

This is the Radcliffe Camera. Unfortunately, visitors are not permitted inside.


University Church




The exterior and some gargoyles of the University Church of Mary the Virgin



The Nave



St.John (with eagle)



St.Luke (with bull)



St.Matthew (with angel)



Moses with the ten commandments


organ and screen

Organ and Screen


The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary


The four evangelists (writers of the gospels) are very popular subjects for windows. So much so that there are two sets in this one church!


St.Matthew (with angel)



St.Mark (with lion)



St.Luke (with bull)



St.John (with eagle)



Another Bridge of Sighs, more properly Hertford Bridge links two sections of Hertford College.


We then visited the Weston Library because we had been told at the Bodleian Library that they had a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

Weston Library

The Weston Library



The Gutenberg Bible was printed in 1455 and was the first book of any size to be printed in the Western World.


The Gutenberg Bible was on display as part of an the exhibition "Bodleian Treasures: 24 Pairs". Some of the other most interesting artefacts were:


An advertisement for "Toby the Sapient Pig".
The "blurb" in the museum read, "Toby took London by storm in 1817. His trainer, former magician Nicholas Hoare, penned the pig’s autobiography to sell for a shilling at his shows: ‘By the time I was four months old, I could read tolerably well’. Toby performed his tricks several times a day, and toured the provinces and possibly France. His fame was waning by 1823, when he was billed with a mermaid, but performing pigs named Toby remained popular at country fairs."




A bestiary from the 13th century.



This is the first page of Gustav Holst's suite "The Planets". It begins with "Mars, the Bringer of War". As a matter of interest, Holst did not include a movement for Pluto as it had not yet been discovered. This is just as well as Pluto is no longer considered to be a planet!



Recycling is a long way from a new idea. From the museum: "Treasures lie hidden in otherwise unremarkable bindings. Beneath the covers of many bindings from the 15th to 18th centuries are fragments of books thrown out as redundant or dangerous, recycled as scrap and cut up for binding materials. The vellum fragments shown here were all recovered from bindings, and include important English music."



A page from the manuscript of Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein". I had not realised that Mary was the wife of Percy Shelley, the famous poet. The black editing above is the work of Percy.



This is "the ‘Bay Psalm Book’ – the first book printed in North America – was an inexpensive, modestly produced book for personal use, small enough to be easily portable. A copy fetched $14.2 million in 2013, making it the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction. It is a rarity: although 1700 copies were printed, most were simply worn out, and only 11 survive.


We chose Magdalen College for Evensong tonight. The choir of boys and men sang the responses by Jackson The canticles were Bairstow in G the anthem was Richard Nicholson's O Pray for the Peace. The choir was very polished but we didn't think it was quite up to the standard of St.John's in Cambridge.

There was one last musical treat for today and that was a concert by the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra which took place in the Sheldonian Theatre. Christopher Wren did NOT have personal comfort in mind when he designed this building. Some of the seating doesn't have backs to this day. At least our seats had backs but it was certainly the most cramped I have ever been for a concert by a professional orchestra. That said, it did not take away from the music which was Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Op. 84 and his Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61. This was followed by a world premiere performance of Eugene Birman's Violin Concerto. We were lucky to hear it then because I suspect it is unlikely to be heard very often! The final piece was Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93. The violinist was Maxim Vengerov and Marios Papadopoulos conducted. All the music was performed at a very high standard and there were very few empty seats.


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