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Coach Trip to Oxford and Visit of Oxford University Press

Wednesday 29th February 2012

At one of our Group's recent monthly meetings, we heard an interesting talk given by Dr. Martin Maw, Archivist of the Oxford University Press, and were offered the opportunity to visit the OUP's museum. So 40 of us, mainly members with a few friends & partners took part in a keenly anticipated trip to Oxford on Leap Year Day, 29th February.

The Oxford University Press building is the headquarters of a huge organisation which has branches in many countries all over the world. The printing of books is done in some of these countries, as books are no longer printed in Oxford. The Oxford University Press is a department of the University so it uses the University's coat of arms, which includes an open book. The first home of the OUP was the Sheldonian Theatre, designed and begun by Sir Christopher Wren, its second was the Clarendon Building, a classical style building built in the 1820s.

Dr. Maw welcomed us to the OUP Museum of which he is the curator. He explained that it covers the history of the Press over more than 500 years, including the ways books were produced, examples of early printing such as the Oxford Almanack, examples of some of the most important titles printed by the Press, Bible and Prayer Book editions, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the current work in progress of putting the revised OED on the Internet. After each brief explanation we were given time to look at the section of the display Dr. Maw had referred to, so we were able to absorb a lot of information. We handled examples of moveable type letters and looked at an early printing press, we learned that Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" has been continually in production since it was first published and we looked at Bibles and Prayer Books published by the Press since the seventeenth century.

However it was the story of how the Oxford English Dictionary, for which the OUP is known throughout the world, was conceived, developed and finally published in 1928 which we found most remarkable. We handled a few of the gigantic number of small slips, all archived in the Museum, which had been completed by volunteers working to the instructions of the creators of the Dictionary, by looking in libraries for the first new usage of words in books printed at different decades. The second edition of the OED was produced 20 years ago on CD Rom. Now, of course, the revised edition of the OED is accessible on the Internet. Given today's costs of publishing, who knows if the revised OED will ever be printed?

After lunch at the Press, several of us stayed to hear a talk on Dickens and the Cleveland St. workhouse. The OUP publishes a large number of books on Dickens and his work and is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth. We were all thrilled to have had the opportunity to learn about the Oxford University Press and grateful to Dr Maw for making our visit so interesting.

All of us visited the Ashmolean Museum at some point during our day in Oxford. The recently opened Ancient Egypt and Nubia galleries were the main attraction. In one gallery there is a mummy of an Egyptian child of which over 2000 images were taken at the Radcliffe Hospital which made possible a reconstruction in wire on 111 glass plates, of the outline of the child s body - an amazing artistic and scientific achievement! A few of us also enjoyed one or more of the Ashmolean's temporary exhibitions including, on this occasion, Howard Hodgkin's superb collection of Mughal paintings. Only a few of us attempted more visits, perhaps to the picture gallery of Christ Church College or the Oxford Modern Art Gallery.

This was our Group's third visit to Oxford in as many years, including the Ashmolean Museum when it re-opened after being splendidly extended and refurbished, and the Bodleian Library for the King James Bible 400th anniversary exhibition. We are lucky to have this beautiful and historic city within easy reach of Maidenhead.

Jill Hume, 29 February 2012



 

 


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