The collection of manuscripts has been catalogued four times, by Thomas James (1600), William Stanley (1722), James Nasmith (1777), and Montague Rhodes James (1909–1912). In addition there is a catalogue of the manuscripts in French by Nigel Wilkins (1993) and a catalogue of the decorated manuscripts up to c. 1100 by Mildred Budny (1997). A catalogue of the Middle English prose manuscripts by Kari Anne Rand was published in 2009.
T. James, Ecloga Oxonio–Cantabrigiensis, tributa in libros duos, quorum prior continet catalogum confusum librorum manuscriptorum in illustrissimis bibliothecis, duarum florentissimarum Acdemiarum, Oxoniae et Catabrigiae (London, 1600), pp. 70–98, reprinted in E. Bernard and H. Wanley, Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliæ et Hiberniæ, in unum collecti, cum indice alphabetico (2 vols. in 1, Oxford, 1697), Vol. I Pt. III, pp. 131–46.
Thomas James (1572/3–1629) was appointed to the position of librarian at Thomas Bodley's library in the University of Oxford in 1599, and his Ecloga Oxonio–Cantabrigiensis appeared in the following year.
The Ecloga contains a catalogue of the manuscripts then in the college libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, together with those in Cambridge University Library and, among these, the Parker Library collection appears under the heading Libri manuscripti in Bibliotheca Collegii Sancti Benedicti Cantabrigiensis, the college at the time being called St. Benet's College. The catalogue employs a simple numerical classification that, wherever possible, makes use of the numbers already used in the Register of the contents of Archbishop Matthew Parker's library compiled shortly after his death in 1575.
The catalogue briefly describes 396 items, yet through a series of repetitions, omissions, and other errors, his numbering runs only to 395. M. R. James concluded that Thomas James omitted all printed books donated by Parker, most manuscripts described in the Archbishop's register as Miscellanea, and some ten others. However, he did include ten manuscripts that were not part of Parker's bequest.
W. Stanley, Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca Collegiis Corporis Christi in Cantabrigia: Quos legauit Matthaeus Parkerus Archiepiscopus Cantuariensis (London, 1722).
William Stanley (c. 1647–1731) was a fellow of Corpus Christi and dean of St. Asaph. His catalogue, described by M. R. James as "a good piece of work," was published in 1722.
Stanley's catalogue returned to the same scheme of classification as that employed by Parker in his Register and provides descriptions of 473 manuscripts, of which 429 were Parkerian and a further 44 were volumes subsequently donated by others and classified as Libri ab alienis donati.
In expanding greatly upon Thomas James's frequently terse statement of the contents of the manuscripts, Stanley provides the first modern catalogue of the Parker collection. However, it lacks any prefatory material that may serve to explain the author's editorial choices.
J. Nasmith, Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum quos Collegio Corporis Christi et B. Mariae Virginis in Academia Cantabrigiensis legauit Reverendissimus in Christo Pater Matthaeus Parker, Archiepiscopus Cantuariensis (Cambridge, 1777).
James Nasmith was a fellow of Corpus Christi whose catalogue, appearing in 1777, was regarded as the standard guide to the Parker Collection at the College until M. R. James's catalogue was completed in 1912.
Nasmith's catalogue describes 482 manuscripts, classifying them through the use of a continuous numerical system related to the size of the volume (from largest to smallest). He included ten manuscripts not known to Stanley, but omitted one printed book included within the latter's work.
Nasmith's descriptions of the manuscripts served as the starting point for James's own discussion of the texts and, for this reason, Nasmith's work remains important for an understanding of the contents of the Parker Library, despite the fact that he was not particularly concerned with the important Anglo-Saxon material.
Montague Rhodes James
Montague Rhodes James, A Descriptive Catalogue of The Manuscripts in the Library of Corpus Christi College Cambridge, Vol. I (Cambridge, 1909), Vol. II (Cambridge, 1912).
Montague Rhodes James had begun his series of catalogues of medieval manuscripts in Cambridge libraries in the 1890s and had considerable experience by the time he came to catalogue the Corpus Christi manuscripts. At that time he was Provost of King's College.
The Nasmith catalogue provided a substantial amount of the groundwork, but James, in his customary manner, provided much more detailed descriptions, and it remains one of the finest of his manuscript catalogues. The catalogue lists 538 items, but a few are printed books with no manuscript content. Small points of criticism can be made of his catalogue, but are of relatively minor consequence. Perhaps the most significant is the failure to distinguish in some of the entries between titles (rubrics), incipits, explicits, and "quotes," and also the failure to insert the folio on which some of these texts occur. After a hundred more years of scholarly investigation the author attributions of some texts have changed, and where authorship was dubious in James's time it has in many cases now been established. The manuscript descriptions on the website have defined these additions and changes to the James catalogue: (i) specification of titles (rubrics), incipits, and explicits; (ii) specification of folio locus where lacking; (iii) addition of the most recent author attributions and standardized titles of the various texts.
Vaughan and Fines
The manuscripts acquired since the publication of the M. R. James catalogue but before 1960 are listed in R. Vaughan and J. Fines, 'A handlist of mss. in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, not described by M. R. James', Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 3 pt. 2 (1960), 113-23. This contains only basic information and has much less detail than James's catalogue. This handlist has been used as the basis of the description on the website of some of the manuscripts acquired since James wrote.
Nigel Wilkins, Catalogue des manuscrits français de la bibliothèque Parker (Parker Library) Corpus Christi College Cambridge (Cambridge, 1993).
Nigel Wilkins is a Life Fellow of Corpus Christi College and a former Parker Librarian.
The catalogue is restricted to texts in Anglo-Norman and medieval French. It is particularly useful for providing up-to-date bibliographies on the manuscripts, new identifications of authorship of texts, and more extensive identification of incipits and explicits.
Mildred Budny, Insular, Anglo-Saxon and Early Anglo-Norman Manuscript Art at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. An Illustrated Catalogue, 2 vols. (Kalamazoo, MI, 1997).
Mildred Budny, an art historian and codicologist, is a widely-acknowledged expert on the collection of manuscripts in the Parker Library, and the founder and president of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, a not-for-profit organization headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey.
This is a very detailed descriptive catalogue, not only of the decoration of fifty-six pre-1100 manuscripts, but also of their text contents and codicological aspects. Extensive up-to-date bibliographies are provided for each manuscript and numerous illustrations.
Kari Anne Rand
Kari Anne Rand, The Index of Middle English Prose, Handlist XX, Manuscripts in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Woodbridge, 2009).
Kari Anne Rand is Professor of English at the University of Oslo.
This catalogue provides a detailed descriptive listing of the 52 manuscripts in the Corpus collection containing Middle English prose texts, with full bibliography for each manuscript.