The Bodleian Continued…

After visiting the exhibition in my previous post, I decided to take a tour of the library – which, I admit, I had somehow managed to fail to do during my two years here in Oxford until then. This was actually due to thinking it wasn’t open to the general public; an ironic misunderstanding since the library, though academic in nature, prides itself on being accessible to all – a fact which is reinforced in stone in a Latin inscription just above the main entrance.

Anyway, I tell you about my tour because it was genuinely one of the most interesting I have ever taken; even a culture vulture like me often finds such things a bit tedious but the library’s history is so incredible that, coupled with the guide’s infectious enthusiasm, it was a fascinating journey into the past – and I urge anyone to pay a visit to this national literary gem of ours and experience it for themselves.

Until then, a few facts to whet your appetite…!

Refounded by Sir Thomas Bodley at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, the library’s extensive collection now boasts:

  • Over a million volumes of early and rare printed books
  • Around 1.2 million maps
  • Over 500,000 items of printed music
  • 1.5 million items of printed ephemera

Treasures of the collection include:

  • The papers of seven British Prime Ministers
  • Works by numerous infamous authors such as J.R.R Tolkein, Franz Kafka and Jane Austen
  • Important holdings of Islamic, South Asian, Hebrew and Jewish books and manuscripts
  • The first ever folio of Shakespeare’s plays

Due to an agreement formed in 1610 between Sir Thomas Bodley and ‘The Stationers’ Company of London,’ the Bodleian is one of only five institutions throughout the UK to receive ‘all new books and copies never printed before.’ The Bodleian was the first to form this agreement and therefore has the oldest and largest collection, with two centuries-worth more of stock. How the library deals with its ever-expanding collection (it now receives deliveries of around 4000 new works every week) and, indeed, how it has done for over 400 years, is just one of the intriguing insights explained on the tour.

The Gothic masterpiece has played host to a number of films throughout the years, most recently in blockbuster ‘Harry Potter,’ in which it was featured as Hogwarts hospital.

Now undergoing a major redevelopment plan, 2015 will see the opening of the Weston Library and will be able to exhibit many more of its treasures for the benefit of the general public – a great excuse for another visit!

The library hosted the official launch of the Oxford World Book Capital 2014 bid, a fantastic location for a fantastic cause!

2 Responses to “The Bodleian Continued…”
  1. readingdelights says:

    I did the library tour as well and I am completely your opinion – it was worth every minute and I can only recommend it!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] The opening of the new Bodleian wing, to be named The Weston Library, which will be devoted primarily to the library’s extensive Special Collections, and will allow greater public access to countless literary treasures. The Bodleian Library is one of our greatest assets – not only within Oxford but within the whole of the UK – but with so much of its colossal stock hidden away beneath the city grounds, this expansion will be a an extremely welcome and worthwhile addition for both the library and the public. My previous post on the Bodleian may whet your appetite! […]

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