Conservation: Bursar’s Day Books
Amongst the College’s administrative records in the Archive lie a series Bursar’s Day Books dating from 1673 to 1881. Being the College’s business manager, an annual appointment for Bursar was made from amongst the Fellowship until the 20th century. The day-to-day financial activities of the College were recorded in the Day Books, on which the Bursar would draw when it was time to prepare the annual accounts.
Some Fellows had a knack for the bursarial work, and William Vesey was one such person. Darby Fellow from 1703 to 1755, he took a keen interest in the contemporary and historic life of the College. He regularly returned to annotate Day Books from previous years. Lists of silver in the buttery, names and signatures of College servants, cancelling out repaid debts and all manner of other minutiae of College life were recorded in his hand.
Now brimming with information, Vesey likely stored the annotated volumes in his College room for ready reference. We know from College accounts that Vesey lived in what is now the Wesley room, which was evidently damp at that time. Twelve volumes from the series show the same pattern of damage, all heavily marked up in Vesey’s unmistakable hand. The damp has weakened the laid paper of the volumes, with fragments from most pages detaching into small pieces. Any handling for research proved impossible because of further losses.
The conservators at the Oxford Conservation Consortium have been painstakingly reattaching the fragments, calling in the Archivist to do some historical jigsaws when their correct placement proved particularly elusive. The conservators are now in the process of digitizing the images in their photography studio. This digitization will provide surrogate copies to preserve the originals as well as remote access. One volume for 1684 was so badly damaged that the decision was taken not to repair it at present, but to digitize the surviving pages. The Day Books will soon return to the Archive where they can rejoin the rest of the series, ready for research in Oxford and from further afield.