EXAMINATIONS IN ELEGIAC COUPLETS

Carmina quadragesimalia ab Aedis Christi Oxon. alumnis composita et ab ejusdem Aedis baccalaureis determinantibus in Schola Naturalis Philosophiae publice recitata [– volumen secundum]. 

Oxford, ‘E Theatro Sheldoniano,’ 1723 [– 1748]. 

Two vols, 8vo in 4s, pp. I: [4], 168; II: [8], 152, [4]; woodcut initials and headpieces; scattered light foxing, but a good set; bound in near-contemporary green straight-grained morocco, spines ruled in gilt and lettered directly, turn-ins roll-tooled in gilt with a Greek key motif, edges gilt, marbled endpapers, pale blue silk placemarkers; extremities somewhat scuffed; errata of vol. I corrected in a contemporary hand, bookplates of the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire to upper pastedowns.

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Carmina quadragesimalia ab Aedis Christi Oxon. alumnis composita et ab ejusdem Aedis baccalaureis determinantibus in Schola Naturalis Philosophiae publice recitata [– volumen secundum]. 

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First edition of humorous verses in Latin, composed by bachelors at Christ Church Oxford as part of scholastic Lenten disputations on natural philosophy. 

The process of admission to the BA was marked by several exercises involving discussions on a set theme, the final stage of which involved upholding or determining a thesis against an opponent.  The present poems are, as the letter to the reader asserts, designed to entertain and inspire interest in a given subject rather than to determine the bachelors’ precise knowledge.  When asked whether sound is faster than light, for instance, the responding BA candidate quips that if Socrates were to drunkenly stumble home in the evening, he would see ‘swift lightning’ flashing in his wife’s eyes even before her tongue could begin to ‘thunder’ (vol. I, p. 31). 

Unlike the equivalent Tripos verses at Cambridge, which were frequently printed or circulated, those at Oxford were recited aloud; the present volumes represent the most substantial printed collection of such poems from Oxford, likely compiled from 1660 onward (see Barton, pp. 167-8).  The first collection, printed in 1723 and edited by Charles Este (1696–1745), was followed by a second volume in 1748, edited by Anthony Parson. 

ESTC T99853.  See Alho and Barton, in Early Modern Disputations and Dissertations (2020); Groves, ‘The Hood of the Determining BA at Oxford’ in Transactions of the Burgon Society 17 (2018); Hall, Cambridge Act and Tripos Verses (2009). 

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