Episode 1: Dr Petra Hofmann, The Old Library, St John's College 

Listen to the podcast recording here:




This recording can be listened to in isolation, or you can scroll through the pictures of the objects and locations we're discussing below. 

Living Libraries Episode 1: Dr Petra Hofmann - Unknown Artist

In this first episode we interviewed Dr Petra Hofmann, the librarian of St John's Library. 

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We interviewed Petra in the college's Old Library (pictured to the left), where research visitors now come to consult the college's rare books and manuscripts. The library is located in the upper story of the seventeenth-century Canterbury Quad. You can just make out Petra's 'mystery curtains' at the far end of the aisle. 

Pictured to the right is the Laudian Library, formally known as the Inner Library. Here, you can clearly make out the beautifully carved wooden angels, and imagine how dark both spaces would have appeared before the Victorian white-washing of the ceilings in both libraries. 

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To the right is Petra's first choice of manuscript from the college's four-hundred strong collection. MS 17 is a early twelfth-century Computus manuscript produced in Cambridgeshire. The manuscript is open at the folios discussed in the audio-recording. 

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This next image is of one of the letters from Jane Austen to her niece Anne Austen, later Anne Lefroy, providing advice and direction on her writing (MS 279). Austen and her niece supposedly connected over their mutual love of 'bad' romance fiction. 

To the right is the incunabula (early printed text) example chosen by Petra. This Nuremburg Chronical (printed in 1493) shows the successful integration of printed text and woodcut images. 

'Wherever you go there is a Nuremburg incunable!'

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PH Johns Charles I portrait.png

Petra's 'Wild Card' is the psalm portrait of King Charles I with the frame doors open. The bright blue band with a pendant hanging is the clearest part of the image, with the detailed micrography somewhat faded. 

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'There is no such thing as an uninteresting historical object' - Dr Petra Hofmann

To the right: Petra sits with her 'Librarian's Choice', the Anglo-Saxon copy of Aelfric of Eynsham's Grammar, a pseudo-language textbook for students.  

If you would like to visit St John's Library, consult their manuscripts and rare books or contact Dr Hofmann, please follow this link: https://www.sjc.ox.ac.uk/discover/about-college/library/special-collections/