File 40-47 - Sir James George Frazer research rotographs of Ovid's Fasti MSS

Identity area

Reference code

Add. MS b/40-47


Sir James George Frazer research rotographs of Ovid's Fasti MSS


  • [1928?] (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2 boxes; rotographs and paper

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Frazer was born 1 January 1854 in Glasgow, and after graduating MA in 1874 from the University of Glasgow, entered Trinity College with a scholarship. He was Second Classic in 1878, and a year later was made a Fellow of the College on the strength of his dissertation, "The Growth of Plato’s Ideal Theory”. This Title Alpha Fellowship, for which no duties were required, was renewed as a Title B fellowship (for those 'engaged in the systematic study of some important branch of literature or science') in 1885 and 1890, before becoming qualified to hold a Pension Fellowship in 1895, at which time it became tenable for life.

“The Golden Bough”, the work for which Frazer is best known, was first published in 1890. The book drew on a comprehensive amount of data and traced common evolutionary patterns in the development of seemingly disparate cultures worldwide. His evolutionary theory of societal development, in which societies moved from a belief in primitive magic, to religion, to science was expanded over three editions, which ballooned from two, to three, to twelve volumes, with an additional volume (“Aftermath”) twenty years later.

Frazer followed “The Golden Bough” with other anthropological works, including “Totemism and Exogamy” (1910), “The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead” (1913-1924), “Folk-Lore in the Old Testament” (1918), “The Worship of Nature” (1926), “Myths of the Origin of Fire” (1930), “The Fear of the Dead in Primitive Religion” (1933), and the four volume “Anthologia Anthropologica. The Native Races of Africa and Madagascar [and Australasia, Asia and Europe, and America]” (1938-1939). His first published work was the revised edition of George Long’s “C. Sallusti Crispi Catalina et Iugurtha” (1884); he continued to produce works of classical scholarship at intervals, with editions of “Pausanias’s Description of Greece” (1898), Apollodorus’s “The Library” (1921), and Ovid’s “Fasti” (one for Macmillan, 1929, one for Loeb, 1931). He also produced more literary works, editing the letters of William Cowper (1912) and essays of Joseph Addison (1915), and writing a series of articles in Addison’s style, “Sir Roger de Coverley” in “The Saturday Review” (1915, published as a book in 1920).

In 1896, he married Lilly Grove (born Elizabeth Johanna de Boys Adelsdorfer in 1854/5), a French widow with two children, Charles Grenville Grove (1878-1949) and Lilly Mary Grove (c 1880-1919). Lilly’s first husband Charles Baylee Grove had been a captain in the British merchant service; they married in 1877, he died in January 1889. Lilly was a French teacher who produced French schoolbooks and plays and promoted the use of phonographic records in the teaching of languages. Her publications include “Scenes of Familiar Life” (1896), “Berthes aux grands pieds” (1902), “Histoire de Monsieur Blanc” (1910), and “Je sais un conte” (1911). She was working on a book on the history of dance when she met Frazer (“Dancing”, 1895), and later wrote a book for children based on “The Golden Bough”, entitled “Leaves from the Golden Bough” (1924). She also translated one of his books, “Adonis” in 1921, and several works by French scholars, including Albert Houtin’s “A Short History of Christianity” (1926) and François Aulard’s “Christianity and the French Revolution” (1927). In the 1930s she commissioned an operetta based on her story “The Singing Wood”, and co-authored a book with James, a small book entitled “Pasha the Pom: the Story of a Little Dog” (1937).

Lilly had a highly developed business sense, and stepped into the role of James’s manager and press agent, promoting him in Britain as well as the continent, where she arranged for his works to be translated into French. James received many honours, most notably a knighthood in 1914, followed by the Order of Merit in 1925. He was named to the first chair of social anthropology in Britain at the University of Liverpool in 1908, was inducted into numerous societies, awarded a number of honorary degrees, and was particularly pleased by a lectureship in anthropology established in his honour in 1922. He was very often in the news, referenced whenever folklore or myth were discussed, and wrote a number of articles for both academic journals and popular newspapers, including a much-reproduced opinion piece in “The Morning Post” in 1925, in favour of forgiveness of the French war debt.

After James suffered a dramatic loss of sight while giving a lecture in May 1931, he and Lilly travelled to Switzerland for a number of eye operations, which were temporarily helpful, but failed to stave off an eventual near blindness. Secretaries were employed as James revised and added to earlier works in the later 1930s. Lilly became increasingly deaf herself. In the late 1930s, they moved from accommodation in London to 7 Causewayside in Cambridge, where they died within a day of each other: James on 7 May and Lilly on 8 May, 1941.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

A letter from J. J. Thomson as Master of Trinity College to Frazer dated 10 Jan. 1930 thanks him for photographs, which may be the ones here. The letter is in the Papers of Sir James George Frazer, housed as FRAZ/25/27.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Research rotographs of eight MSS in six different libraries, gathered by Frazer while he was conducting a rescension of the text of Ovid's Fasti for his edition published by Macmillan in 1929, and as part of the Loeb Classical Library in 1931.

The MSS are:

Codex Reginensis sive Petavianus, Manuscript No. 1709, Vatican Library. Frazer notation A [ADD.Ms.b.40]

Codex Mallersdorfiensis sive Monacensis, Lat. 8122, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich. Frazer notation D [ADD.Ms.b.41]

Pembroke Ms. No. 280, Pembroke College Library, Cambridge. Frazer notation F [ADD.Ms.b.42]

Codex Mazariniensis, Oxford Manuscript Auct. F. 4. 25, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Frazer notation m [ADD.Ms.b.43]

Codex Mazarinianus, No. 7992, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Frazer notation M [ADD.Ms.b.44]

Codex Ursinianus sive Vaticanus 3262, Vatican Library. Frazer notation U [ADD.Ms.b.45]

Bruxellensis 5369, Bibliothèque Royale, Bruxelles. Frazer notation X [ADD.Ms.b.46]. Accompanied by a note recording an article by Fritz Graebner, 'Alt- und neuweltliche Kalender' in 'Zeitschrift für Ethnologie', 1920.

Reg. Lat 1709A, Vatican Library. [ADD.Ms.b.47]

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

These rotographs may not be reproduced without the permission of the original holding repository.

Language of material

  • Latin

Script of material

    Language and script notes

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    Finding aids

    Allied materials area

    Existence and location of originals

    The location of originals is noted above.

    Existence and location of copies

    A digital image of Reg. Lat. 1709A is available on the Vatican Digital Library website.

    Related units of description

    Letters related to the ordering and purchase of the rotographs may be found in the Papers of Sir James George Frazer, FRAZ/14/70-87.
    Letter from J. J. Thomson as Master of Trinity College, dated 10 Jan. 1930, thanks Frazer for the photographs, which may be the ones here.

    Publication note

    Publii Ovidii Nasonis Fastorum Libri Sex, The Fasti of Ovid. Edited with a translation and commentary by Sir James George Frazer. 5 vols. London: Macmillan and Co., 1929.

    Notes area


    ADD.Ms.b.41: Each rotograph is stamped Codex Monacensis in ink on verso, with shelf mark and leaf number completed in pencil.
    ADD.Ms.b.42: The first and last rotograph is identified (in an unidentified hand) as belonging to Pembroke College, Cambridge.
    ADD.Ms.b.43: Verso of rotographs 88 & 91 carry notes in Frazer's hand.
    ADD.Ms.b.45: Verso of first rotograph stamped by the photographer Sansaini in ink on verso, with shelf mark in ink.
    ADD.Ms.b.46: Verso of rotograph 127 carries note in Frazer's hand. Some of the numbers on the versos of the rotographs have been revised, in Frazer's hand [?].


    In the introduction to 'Publii Ovidii Nasonis Fastorum Libri Sex, The Fasti of Ovid' Frazer writes 'When my work on the "Fasti" is done, I propose to offer all my photographs of the manuscripts to Trinity College, Cambridge, in the hope that the College will place them in its noble library, where they might facilitate the labours of future editors of the "Fasti", who would thus be able incidentally to correct any mistakes into which I may have fallen in my use of the photographs.'

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