Monday, May 12, 2014

Oldest Piece of Paper in Oxford from 1335

According to Merton College, the oldest piece of paper in Oxford University dates from 1335. It had been discovered in the nineteenth century but had been lost in the archives due to inadequate record-keeping. In addition, it had gotten mixed up in a large collection (think: thousands) of medieval documents. Luckily, conservators Jane Eagan and Andrew Honey found it during their preparation of items for the college's spring library exhibition, Merton 1264, to commemorate the college's 750th birthday this year.

Since paper-making wasn't introduced to northern Europe until the late fourteenth century, the paper itself is suspected to have come from Italy, France or Spain, or perhaps even the eastern Mediterranean.

What does the document say? "It is one of a number of supporting documents attached to the account roll of John de Viliers, bursar in 1334-5, and comprises a list of luxury foodstuffs, including rice, sugar, spices, and dried fruit."

Below images are copyrighted by the Merton College of Oxford University and used with permission. Click on each image to see if you can decipher any words. Look for gynger and raysins.