Christ Church Music Manuscripts Catalogue Project

Christ Church has an unusual collection of music manuscripts and prints from a snapshot period of history thanks to the private collecting activities of two former Deans of Christ Church Cathedral, Aldrich and Goodson. These collectors donated their collections of mostly 17th-century music to the College library, where they have remained ever since.

We are actively seeking partners in this project who will realise considerable benefits from the planned outcomes, which include:

  • At least one mobile digitisation studio (two if funding permits)
  • A database-based resource for the catalogue of any institution with a similar music print and manuscript collection, which includes content management for all aspects of metadata and images
  • An online delivery system for the database and images, so that they may be viewed online; the resource may also be used to manage sales of images to provide libraries with a sustainable income
  • Authority listings in the Library of Congress online catalogue for all composers and works contained in the Christ Church collection
  • A dedicated partbook viewer which will allow users to see all parts for a work in a single, zoomable, view at a single click, as well as allowing the user to draw in a missing voice part from a different partbook set in the same, or another collection that supplies it.

The limitations of funding, and the necessity to be realistic about what we hope to achieve means that this project is limited in scope to seventeenth-century music manuscripts and prints, but the outputs will be sufficiently adaptable to allow the techniques and structures to be extensible so that they can encompass broader-based collections, such as that at Durham Cathedral (catalogued in print by Brian Crosby).

John Milsom has for many years worked on the music collection of Christ Church, creating a detailed catalogue with an online interface designed and implemented by Matthew Phillips, now Systems Manager of Durham University Library. The system however does not include images, as the collection has not yet been digitised. Part of the funding activity will involve digitisation of the manuscripts in the Aldrich and Goodson collections, with graduate studentships to run alongside the work, examining the collections and the social and musical importance.

Input from collaborating partners will be essential in assuring the framework developed meets the needs of a wide group of collections and libraries. The Christ Church collection is mirrored by a very similar collection (both in scope and date period) housed in the Bodleian Library and know as the Music School Collection (since it belongs to the Faculty of Music). This collection is uncatalogued. The Peterhouse Partbooks (a page is shown on the left) have considerable overlap in content and historical dimension, and these have been digitised by DIAMM, but there is no online catalogue (although the research is under way) or delivery system for a catalogue and images.

The British Library also has similar collections, but lacks a catalogue as detailed as that of Christ Church, and the system to allow users to search as comprehensively as they are able to do with the Christ Church Catalogue. Their collections are digitised on demand, which means that imaging of their contemporary collections has many lacunae.

As well as undertaking the practical and technical parts of the work, the project seeks to bring performers to this repertory, encouraging them to work from original sources and create digital performing editions and recordings from the manuscripts. The Cathedral Choir, where these manuscripts were originally used, will also benefit from new editions and the availability of online supporting documentation for performances and recordings.
This project has enormous potential, with international benefits both for the academic and the performing communities. If you would like to be involved please contact DIAMM.

Confirmed collaborators:

  • Christ Church Library Oxford
  • Christ Church Cathedral Choir
  • Phantasm Viol Consort
  • Peterhouse Cambridge, Perne Library
  • The British Library
  • The Bodleian Library, Oxford