Elliott Manuscripts
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Reference code: GB 033 ELL
Title: Elliott Manuscripts
Dates of creation: 13th-16th century
Extent: 10 pieces
Held by: Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections
Origination: Dr. George Ball Elliott (1918-1994), collector
Language: Latin; French

George Ball Elliott (1918-1994) was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and graduated in medicine from the University of Durham in 1940. A distinguished pathologist, he spent most of his career in Canada, first in Winnipeg, then as Director of Clinical Laboratories at Calgary General Hospital 1953-1964, Chief of Surgical Pathology at Vancouver General Hospital 1964-1973, and Clinical Pathology Research Associate at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, Victoria BC, 1973-1985. A man of immense energy and wide interests, he was the author of almost ninety articles on medical topics, and also published a number of papers on the diverse researches on antiquities and historical topics which engaged his interest in retirement. He was an enthusiastic collector of books and manuscripts, with a particular interest in cryptography and ciphers.


The manuscripts fall into two groups: Elliott MSS 1-8: fragments of 8 liturgical manuscripts and books of hours, 13th-16th century (16 leaves in total):
1. Breviary, France, end 13th century.
2. Gradual, Italy, 14/15th century.
3. Breviary, England, ca. 1400.
4. Antiphoner, Italy, mid-15th century.
5. Book of hours, N. France, mid-15th century.
6. Book of hours, Low Countries, mid-15th century.
7. Gradual, Italy, 2nd half 15th century.
8. Antiphoner, Spain, 16th century.
Elliott MSS 9-10:
9: Letter written in cipher on diplomatic matters, signed by Francis I of France 17 March 1546/7
10: Letter written in cipher on diplomatic matters, signed by Cardinal Mazarin 19 September 1646

Accession details

Deposited by Dr. Elliott, 1984.

Previous custodial history

The fragments seem mainly to have been bought from Maggs.

Conditions of access

Open for consultation.

Copyright and copying

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material

Related material - here

Elliott Collection Books collected by Dr Elliott on cryptography and science (about 80 volumes)


Elliott MS.1   [end 13th century]
Breviary, France.
4 leaves 
Separate catalogue description
Elliott MS.2   [15th century]
Gradual, central Italy.
3 leaves 
Separate catalogue description
Elliott MS.3   [approximately 1400]
Breviary, England.
1 piece 
Separate catalogue description
Elliott MS.4   [mid-15th century]
Antiphoner, Italy.
1 piece 
Separate catalogue description
Elliott MS.5   [mid-15th century]
Book of hours, Northern France.
1 piece 
Separate catalogue description
Elliott MS.6   [mid-15th century]
Book of hours, Low Countries.
1 piece 
Separate catalogue description
Elliott MS.7   [mid-15th century]
Gradual, Italy
2 leaves 
Separate catalogue description
Elliott MS.8   [early 16th century]
Bifolium from Spanish antiphoner. 5 lines of text and music per page. Text “Multe tribulationes iustorum et de hiis omnibus liberavit eos dominus dominus custodit omnia ossa eorum unum ex hiis non conteretur” etc. Very large initials in red and blue.
1 bifolium 
Size: 666 x 475 mm
Elliott MS.9   17 March 1546/7
Language:   French
Letter signed by François I King of France, at Rambouillet, to Christophe Richer, French ambassador to Denmark. Written in cipher, containing recent intelligence from Germany and other information. With a modern deciphered transcription and notes on the cipher by Pierre Bougé.
1 piece + 7 f 
Size: 300 x 185 mm
Accompanied by correspondence about purchase of the letter from Maggs' catalogue January 1973, in which this item was number 45.
Index terms
Francis I, King of France, 1494-1547
Richer, Christophe, 1513-1552
Elliott MS.10   19 September 1646
Language:   French
Letter, mostly in a number cipher with the deciphered French text written in, from Cardinal Mazarin, Fontainebleau, to Abbé St Nicolas (Henri Arnauld) regarding his diplomatic mission to Italy. Contains instructions about a French peace treaty and convincing the Grand Duke of Tuscany to favour the French.
1 f folded; (3 pages) 
Size: 335 x 460 mm
Accompanied by cutting, describing the letter, from a 20th century sale catalogue in which this item was number 103.
Index terms
Mazarin, Jules, 1602-1661
Arnauld, Henri, 1597-1692
Ferdinando II, Grand-Duke of Tuscany, 1610-1670
Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648
France -- Foreign relations -- Italy -- 17th century