"that you won't even find in the Bodleian"

Bodleian Library Oxford
GNU Free Documentation LicenseBodleian Library Oxford - Credit: Roman Kirillov
The Bodleian library at Oxford University was first opened to scholars in 1602. It incorporates an earlier library, erected by the University in 1488 to house the manuscript collection of Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester.  Duke Humfrey’s library was destroyed in 1550, on the orders of King Edward VI, as part of a purge of Roman Catholic artefacts. 

Almost 50 years later, Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613) provided the funding to re-establish the library.  The old library was refurnished to house a new collection of 2,500 books, including Bodley’s own collection, and opened in 1602. In 1610 Bodley entered into an agreement with the Stationers’ Company of London, that a copy of every book published in England would be deposited in the new library (the agreement was incorporated into legislation and finally became effective from the mid-1800s).

The collections of manuscripts and books attracted scholars from all over Europe.  By 1849, there were estimated to be 220,000 books and some 21,000 manuscripts in the library’s collection, along with pictures, sculptures, coins and medals, and ‘curiosities.’  BY 1914, the books numbered one million. 

Over the years there have been a great many extensions and new building, to house the growing collection.  The original buildings have however remained in constant use.