Library and Archives Blog

Margot Collinson Social Media Takeover!

October 2020 marks the centenary of women being fully recognized by the University. To mark this milestone, we'll be exploring the letters home of Margot Collinson [St Hilda's 1917-1921], the transcripts of which we hold in the Archives. Her letters chronicle student life and the opening up of academic opportunities for women in the university. Using this rich source material, Margot will be taking over our social media channels from Monday 19th - Friday 23rd October to post updates on life as an Oxford student during a time of great change.

Follow Margot's takeover on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about the life of a 1920s hildabeast: #SHCMargotTakeover


Portrait of Margot Collinson, Garden fete c1922

Farewell Heritage, hello SOLO!

We’re delighted to announce that the College Library Catalogue (previously Heritage) is now available on SOLO. This means that you can find the physical and online resources available to you from just one search.

Where do I look to find what I need?

  • Now, instead of searching Heritage separately, you’ll be able to see to see what resources are available from the College library when searching SOLO:
  • You can search the College’s collections specifically by selecting “St Hilda’s College Library” from the drop down list (“search everything” is the default). The results also include online access – you can restrict to physical items only using the filters on the left hand side.
  • General guidance from the Bodleian Libraries on how to use SOLO is available here:

Is everything in the College Library now on SOLO?

  • Almost! Over 50,000 items have been added using existing electronic data. This leaves around 10,000 items where the data wasn't good enough to bring across without first checking the physical book. These are mostly older works which were difficult to identify in Heritage already. We have a plan to finish adding these over the next 12 months.
  • If you find a book on the shelf that does not appear on SOLO you are still welcome to borrow it. If it doesn't work on the self-service machine bring it to the Issue Desk or, if staff are not available, send the number (or an image of) the barcode on the first page to and we will issue it to you remotely.
  • Library staff still have access to the catalogue as it was on Heritage, so if you cannot find something you need that you think we already have, do not hesitate to contact us and we will check for you. 

What about my current loans?

  • All your loans from the College Library will now appear on your SOLO account, just like your departmental/faculty and Bodleian books. The date they were issued to you will be fictional, but due dates will remain the same.
  • We automatically renewed all books on loan to be due back on 12 October 2020, so there remains no need to return or renew any books for now.
  • If you do need to renew your books later in the year, you should do this in your SOLO account. For instructions on accessing your library account in SOLO, visit

What about my library fines?

  • All existing fines were waived earlier this year as we adapted to COVID-19, and College Library fines will remain suspended at least until we reopen. Therefore, no library fines (for College books) will appear on your account.
SOLO search screen - St Hilda's College Library selected

St Hilda's Library's Oldest Printed Book

Gualtherus Burlaeus, Expositio in artem veterem Porphyrii et Aristotelis (Venice: Bonetus Locatellus, for Octavianus Scotus, 8 July 1488)

The oldest printed book in St Hilda’s special collections is treasured not only because of its age, but because it came from the collection of the College’s founder, Dorothea Beale.

Originally written c.1337, this work by the prominent fourteenth-century philosopher, Walter Burley, would have been as much if not more valuable to early St Hilda’s students for its form as for its content. It exemplifies how printing might be seen as a continuation of the manuscript tradition, another way of disseminating works which had previously been copied by hand before.

Texts printed in the 15th century like this one are referred to as incunabula i.e. coming from the “cradle” of early European printing. According to the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), an international database of 15th-century European printing, it is the only copy of this edition in the British Isles.

As you can see in the image from the first surviving page, the work is printed in two columns (which continues throughout), with spaces left blank for initial letters to be added by hand later. The Hilda’s copy does not have any of these spaces filled in, but it does have lots of late 15th/early 16th-century annotations throughout in three or four different hands. This exemplifies the long history of this copy even before it entered Beale’s collection. Whereas in the era of Beale’s book collecting these annotations may have lowered the price of the work, it is this kind of evidence of use which excites researchers today. 

The image of the final page includes information about where and when the book was printed (the colophon) and also shows some of the woodblock diagrams which appear throughout. This gives yet more to talk about when the book is used as an example in current teaching.

The Special Collections at St Hilda’s (around 700 titles) mostly pre-date the foundation of the College (1893), thus have some interesting stories to tell about where they’ve been and how they came to be here. Dorothea Beale gave at least 30 of her books to the College, and we look forward to discovering more about the works she thought women at the College should have access to in the late 19th century.


Book plate of the oldest printed book in St Hilda’s special collections , First page from the oldest printed book in St Hilda’s special collections , Final page of the oldest printed book in St Hilda’s special collections

Student theatrical productions: From paper to USB stick

In the summer of 1906, St Hilda’s students staged a performance of the 16th-century play, The Arraignment of Paris, in the Hall grounds. This production is particularly significant because of the range of historical documents we hold about it. Alongside photographs and theatrical programmes, we also hold annotated texts of the play, music scores and notes about the songs, a number of which are currently on display in the Kathleen Major Library at St Hilda's.

The first image shows the cast in costume in the College grounds. The second shows the text of the play, The Arraignment of Paris, by George Peele and edited by Oliphant Smeaton, London, Dent, 1905. The book was donated by St Hilda's first Principal, Esther Burrows (Principal 1893-1910). The inscription reads, 'This play was acted in the garden of St Hilda's Hall, Oxford (now called 'Old Hall') in Trinity Term 1906. This is now followed by the list of the cast.' [EPHEMERA: Arraygnment of Paris 1]

In February 2020, a former student deposited to the archive a USB stick of fascinating student theatrical materials dating from 2011. The files include JPEG images, Word documents, audio files and films. How we store and preserve these digital documents so we can open them for research and display is the great challenge facing the archival profession today. The third image shows the file structure for the digital materials in our archives.


Performance of Arraingnment of Paris, in the grounds of St Hilda's, c. 1906, Text of the play 'The Arraignment of Paris', edited by Oliphant Smeaton, London, Dent, 1905. Donated by Esther Burrows [Principal 1893-1910]. , File structure for digital materials in St Hilda's College's archives

Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Peace was signed on 28th June 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, France. Commonly referred to as the Treaty of Versailles, it came into effect on 10th January 1920 and officially marked the end of the First World War. Printed copies were published and printed by His Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1919, and St Hilda’s Library purchased its copy soon after, in 1920.

The treaty begins:

'Bearing in mind that on the request of the Imperial German Government an armistice was granted on November 11, 1918, to Germany by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers in order that a Treaty of Peace might be concluded with her,


From the coming into force of the present Treaty the state of war will terminate. From that moment and subject to the provisions of this Treaty official relations with Germany, and with any of the German States, will be resumed by the Allied and Associated Powers.’

The Treaty imposed many territorial, military, and economic sanctions on Germany, and negotiations were led by the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. Facsimiles of their representatives’ signatures were printed inside the copies the Treaty, including those of David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States.

Treaty of Versailles, Signatures of UK Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, and President of the USA, Woodrow Wilson, on the Treaty of Peace