Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Oxford's Bodleian Library - 7/23/09

On Thursday, July 23rd, we took a day trip to Oxford where we were able to tour Oxford's renowned Bodleian Library. The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford. It is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and is the second largest in Great Britain (the British Library is the largest). It serves as one of the six legal deposit libraries for works published in the United Kingdom. The Bodleian Library opened its doors to students in 1602, shortly after Sir Thomas Bodley received permission to restore the current ailing library in 1598. His main method of collecting material was to have it donated. While he did have funding through the wealth of his wife and his father's inheritance, Bodley still needed to have the gifts of affluent friends and colleagues to build his library collection. He promised that anyone who donated material would have their name written in acknowledgement inside the building.

This great university library (which happens to be used for the Harry Potter films), accommodates a wide range of readers and material, primarily covering the humanities discipline. It is a reference library that does not allow patrons to borrow material. New patrons to the Bodleian Library are required to agree to a formal declaration before being granted access to the library.

Today, the Bodleian includes several off-site storage areas as well as nine other libraries in Oxford including the Japanese Library, the Law Library, the Indian Institute Library, the Oriental Institute Library, the Philosophy Faculty Library, the Radcliffe Science Library, the Sackler Library, the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, and the Vere Harmsworth Library.

The current statistical holdings of the library include over 8 million items on 117 miles of shelving! They have a staff of over 400 as well. Some items in its special collections include four copies of the Magna Carta, a Shakespeare's First folio, letters of the poet Percy Shelley, a Gutenberg Bible, and several rare codexes.

Being in Oxford was a great experience for me. It's literary history seems endless and I really wish I had more time to explore all the secrets of the town. I had really enjoyed just walking around the town where Lewis Carroll was inspired to write Alice in Wonderland, and the town so widely used as a backdrop in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series (The Golden Compass). Oxford was used to film many scenes from the Harry Potter films and the Golden Compass film as well. We also went to The Eagle and Child Pub which has seen the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis!

Oxford's Bodleian Library can be found online at

The Bodleian Library (interior)
*Photo courtesy of

The Bodleian Library (exterior)
*Photo courtesy of

The Eagle and Child Pub
*Photo courtesy of

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