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Arms of St John's College Cambridge in fabric
Sewn in blue, white, red, gold, and green thread. 205 x 195mm. Clearly cut from a larger item, perhaps a pennant or flag.
Given by Professor Richard Perham (Master 2004-7), Oct. 2007. Lower Library Artefacts Box.

Autograph of Sir John Cheke (1514-57)
On slip of paper, mounted in wooden, glazed frame, 122 x 47mm. The inscription, in a fine italic, reads: 'Londres. Gulielmus cicillus de Hospitio vere Celebri .s. Graio 1542.' A note on the back reads: 'Presumed to be the writing of John Cheke. Addressed to Wm. Cecil, then a student at Gray's Inn. Given to me by Thérèse.'
Given by John Fairbank, son of Alfred Fairbank, 1982. MSS Store.

Benlowes Marble Perspective
Scagliola panel, 425 x 302mm. In wooden frame, 585 x 475mm, bearing the arms of Edward Benlowes (1602-76), who presented this and other ornaments in 1631. Date unknown. Shows arches, buildings and distant landscape in perspective.
John Evelyn refers to this item in his diary entry for 31 Aug. 1654: 'This evening, to Cambridge; and went first to St John's College ... and library ... One Mr. Benlowes has given it all the ornaments of pietra commessa whereof a table and one piece of perspective is very fine.' (Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn, edited by W. Bray (London, 1857), vol. I, p.303).
It was also seen by Zacharias Konrad von Uffenbach, on 29 July 1710: 'By the adjoining windows hung some mosaics, one of which, representing a building in excellent perspective, was incomparably fine.' (J.E.B. Mayor, Cambridge under Queen Anne (Cambridge, 1911) p. 129). The table and other ornaments appear to be lost.
See: A.F. Torry, Founders and benefactors of St John's College, Cambridge (Cambridge, 1888), p. 28.
Conserved by John Burbidge of Granville & Burbidge, 2008-9.
Parsons Room.

Buddha
Ivory, 130 x 68mm. Date unknown. Buddha seated within cylindrical, ornately carved cage composed of branches, on plainly carved base. Carved from single piece of ivory.
Provenance unknown. MSS Store.

Burmese repousse silver bowls
Four repousse silver bowls. Burmese, 19th-century?

  1. 280 x 200mm. Decorated with human and animal figures in arched compartments, and floral designs, in high relief. Humanoid figure holding fish engraved on base, with inscription in Burmese.
  2. 127 x 82mm. Decorated with human and animal figures in arched compartments (man, woman, child, baby, bird, and snake) and floral designs, in high relief. Peacock engraved on base.
  3. 122 x 82mm. Decorated with 12 human and animal figures in arched compartments (signs of the Zodiac?) and floral designs, in high relief. Floral design engraved on base.
  4. 113 x 72mm. Decorated with human figures and birds (incorporating a hunting scene) and floral designs, in high relief. Initials H.M.K. engraved on base.

In wooden, baize-lined box. Provenance unknown. Lower Library.

Comb
Wooden, 100 x 60mm. 16th-century? With 16 teeth on one side, and 73 on the other (with one tooth obviously missing). A label pasted to the comb reads: 'Ancient comb found built in the old wall when opened to make junction with New Building by Library Staircase.' The old wall is presumably that on E staircase Second Court (constructed 1599-1600), and the new building the Penrose Building (constructed 1885-7).
MSS Store.

Egyptian Scarab Ring
Green stone, 15 x 12mm, mounted in gold ring. Date unknown. The top of the green stone is carved with a scarab beetle, the underside with hieroglyphs. The stone revolves within its casing on pins.
Bequeathed by Miss Mary Wilhelmina Bourdoff Gerrard, 1918. MSS Store.

Fragment of porcelain plate bearing the name Scott
Porcelain fragment in the shape of a claw. c.110 x 80 x 20mm. The plate is white with a wavy edge coloured with blue. The name 'Scott' appears in gold letters on the edge beneath the blue decoration. Kept in a wooden box with a glass lid. A note on the bottom of the box reads, 'Dug up in St John's Chapel Court late 1964'. William Scott (1742-1808) was Fellows' Cook at St John's 1768-1808 and was succeeded by his son Thomas (b. 1779) who held this office c.1808-24.
Given by Mr Brian Scott (BA 1947), Sep. 2005. Lower Library Artefacts Box.

Freedom of the City of Belfast, awarded to Sir Joseph Larmor (1857-1942)
Silver casket in case, by Gibson & Co., Belfast. The case is covered in blue velvet and lined with white silk. It has two hinged lids which open to the sides and are secured by two brass locks on the front of the case and three brass clasps along the top. The case measures 295 H x 560 W x 320 D mm. The silver casket is mounted on a wooden base, partly covered with green and white velvet. The whole measures 260 H x 490 W x 260 D mm. The casket is flanked by a figure of Britannia, with helmet, shield, and trident, and a crowned female figure, holding a scroll and a shield bearing the arms of the city of Belfast. The ornately decorated casket measures 130 H x 320 W x 170 D mm. The decoration includes four medallions painted with views of Belfast. One side bears the monogram JL in blue and red, and the other bears a shield with the inscription THIS CASKET | CONTAINS THE CERTIFICATE | OF THE | ELECTION AND ADMISSION OF | Sir Joseph Larmor Knt D.Sc. L.L.D. D.C.L. &c. | AS AN HONORARY BURGESS OF THE | CITY OF BELFAST | 1st April 1912. The lid is decorated with the arms of the city of Belfast with the motto 'Pro tanto quid retribuamus'. The contents of the casket are as follows.

  • Hand-painted and illuminated certificate, lined with blue silk.
  • Booklet entitled City of Belfast: Presentation of the Freedom of the City to Sir Joseph Larmor ... Sir Almroth Edward Wright ... The Hon. Whitelaw Reid ... Sir James Henderson ... 30th May, 1912. 12p. Bound in gold-tooled red morocco.
  • Typescript headed 'Presentation of the Freedom of the City of Belfast 30th May 1912: Order of Procedure'. 2p.
  • Two small golden keys on a blue ribbon.

Larmor bequest. Lower Library.

Lead filling from skull
Lead, roughly hemispherical, 160 x 65mm. Apparently half the lead filling from the skull of a lead-filled skeleton discovered at Newport Pagnell in 1619. This skeleton is described by John Weever in his Ancient funerall monuments (London, 1631) p. 30:
'In the North aisle of the Parish-church of Newport-painell in Buckinghamshire, in the yeare 1619 was found the body of a man whole and pefect; laid downe, or rather leaning downe, North, and South: all the concavous parts of his body, and the hollownesse of every bone, as well ribs as other, were filled up with sollid lead. The skull with the lead in it doth weigh thirty pounds and six ounces, which with the neck-bone, and some other bones (in like manner full of lead) are reserved, and kept in a little chest in the said Church, neare to the place where the corps was found; there to be showne to strangers as reliques of admiration. The rest of all the parts of his body are taken away by Gentlemen neare dwellers, or such as take delight in rare Antiquities. This I saw.'
A further account of these bones by George Ashby appears in John Nichols' Bibliotheca topographica Britannica (London, 1781) No. 2, Part 2 (Vol. 3), pp. 156-162: 'A very ancient calendar, which together with the curiosities of the bone mentioned in Weever's Funeral Monuments, p.30, were given to the library of St John's College in Cambridge by Edmund Waller, M.D., and Senior Fellow of the said college, 1745.' Ashby also notes the following: 'This winter 1761-2, the skull has been sawn through transversely, I don't know with what view or by whose orders.'
Ashby's account is reprinted in William Stukeley's correspondence (Surtees Society vol. 76, 1883, pp. 12-16). The editor adds the following note: 'In October 1882 the Rev. S.S. Lewis, F.S.A., of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, with the help of Mr J.W. Clark, a learned osteologist, carefully examined one of the three relics in St John's College Library. At first glance Mr Clark insisted that the three objects consisted of nothing but lead, and this view was confirmed when they proceeded to saw out a segment from the very centre of one of them. Mr Clark's theory is that these pieces are probably the debris of a leaden coffin after some great fire.'
See: Sir Charles Illingworth, 'Dr. William Hunter's observations on lead-filled bones', Medical History XIV:4 (October 1970), 390-6.
Upper Library.

Osculatory
Ivory, 140 x 60mm. French, 14th-century. Depicts in high relief the crucifixion, with the Virgin and St John, beneath a cusped arch with foliate corbels and below a pointed gable carved with a trefoil in the spandrel. The centre of the trefoil is pierced with a hole, through which runs a string woven from yellow linen and gold metal thread.
Purchased by George Udny Yule at a Sotheby's sale, 15 March 1951, and presented by him to the Library in the same year.
The Sotheby's catalogue description for this item notes: 'Koechlin mentions only two examples of single panels with gabled tops, one of them in the British Museum and illustrated by Dalton in his Catalogue of Ivory Carvings, pl. 57, no. 257. There is another of coarser quality in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated in the Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory vol. II, pl. 25 and p. 28. Both have the same subject.'
MSS Store.

Owl
Bronze. Owl c. 370 x 210 x 95mm, base c. 330 x 93 x 96mm. By John Skelton, nephew of Eric Gill.
Given by Michael Pybus, 2000. Lower Library.

Pennant
Blue and white silk, on metal bar. 320 x 250mm. Bears the legend: Rugby C.D.U.L. v St. John's College U Lisboa 20-3-60.
Given by Henry David Wilsdon (BA 1960), Jan. 2009. Lower Library Artefacts Box.

Piece of clunch from the Old Chapel
Stone, 205 x 155 x 65mm. Carved with a crude human figure in profile, an eight-pointed star, and two inscriptions. In a glazed wooden box to which is pasted a label bearing the following note: 'Piece of clunch from the wall of the old chapel pulled down in 1869, which was part of S. John's Hospital. The inscription is: OMNIBUS EST NOTUM QUOD ORESEUILA [?] AMAT BENE POTUM and, to the right above: ADAM FECIT HOC. From the style of writing, it appears to date from the latter part of the thirteenth century.' This note is in the hand of Hugh Percival Wharton Gatty (1907-48).
Upper Library.

Plaque in honour of those stranded on Elephant Island in 1916
Brass plaque mounted in glazed frame. 250 x 180mm unframed; 305 x 245mm framed. Engraved with the following inscription: 'In tribute to the members of Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition who survived in this place from April to August, 1916, in particular to James Wordie, geologist, later Sir James Wordie and Master of St John's College, Cambridge, England from 1952 to 1959. This memorial was placed in February, 2007 on behalf of all Members of St John's College by the crew of the yacht SADKO, skipper Noël Marshall, pupil of that College, 1954-1957.'
Bequeathed by Noël Hedley Marshall (BA 1957), Mar. 2009. Lower Library Artefacts Box.

Travelling safe
Wooden box with metal fittings. 220 x 385 x 230mm. 17th-century? The box has two handles on the sides and a hinged top, lockable at the front. The top is fixed on three hinges and has a small compartment incorporated into it, on the inside, with a lid which opens on two hinges and locks with a bolt. By means of a bolt, the front of the box opens on two hinges to reveal two drawers which run beneath the main compartment. The sides have long screws running through them which, by means of a key, can screw out through the base of the box to secure it to whatever rests below. The main compartment of the box contains:

  • A key for the screws which run through the sides of the box.
  • An ivory drawer handle?
  • A small decorated wicker box, without a lid, bearing the remains of a wax seal.
  • A circular medal box, covered in gold-tooled leather, with a brass hinge and catch, and lined with blue velvet.
  • A green silk sash.
  • A green baize bag.
  • A leather and paper-lined wooden box, 50 x 130 x 85mm. The paper lining is taken from a 17th-century legal text, printed in black letter. The lid bears the remains of a paper label, upon which is written '13o Febr. till March ... March 6o ...', in a 17th-century hand.

Provenance unknown. Lower Library.

Ushabti
Egyptian funerary figurines. Date unknown.

  1. 88 x 27mm. Glazed earthenware?
  2. 105 x 38mm. Glazed earthenware?
  3. 105 x 37mm. Glazed earthenware? Wants feet.
  4. 140 x 44mm. Clay.
  5. 132 x 33mm. Clay.

Presented by the Egypt Exploration Society, late 19th century? MSS Store.