Bodleian Library

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Broad Street, Oxford, United Kingdom
Bodleian Library - Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the library
Bodleian Library - Divinity School
Bodleian Library - Bodleian Library, Oxford
Bodleian Library - The Earl of Pembroke
Bodleian Library - Bodleian Library, Oxford
Bodleian Library - Bodleian Library, Oxford
Bodleian Library - Bodleian Library, Oxford

Bodleian Library Oxford Reviews

king_golo king_golo
28 reviews
A magnificent library Jan 30, 2017
The Bodleian Library, or Bod as everybody calls it, is the biggest and most important library of Oxford. It owns some 9 million (!) books, making it the second-largest library in Great Britain.

Opened in 1602 as the successor of a smaller library which was located on the premises of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the Bod had quite a rough start. Its oldest part, Duke Humphrey's Library from 1488, wasn't finished for years due to financial problems. 50 years after it had eventually opened, many of its books were destroyed: King Edward VI wanted all reminders of Roman Catholicism in England to be purged.

It wasn't until 1602 that the library came to success again. Thomas Bodley, a rich Fellow of Merton College, donated the money which was necessary to have it built and expanded. For this reason, the Bod itself is "only" 400 years old, but parts of it are older. Quite soon, the huge amount of books needed to be monitored and registered. In order to ensure the first, the most valuable books were chained to the shelves. In order to achieve the latter, the library introduced the world's first library catalogue in 1605, which by 1620 already listed 675 pages of books! This number grew continuously, also due to an agreement with publishing companies that made the Bod receive one copy of every book published in the UK.

Nowadays, the Bod is the most important library of Oxford and is used by numerous scholars from all over the world, all of which have to swear the following oath prior to using it: "I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."

Non-academics mostly visit the Bodleian Library as part of a tour. I have never done that, but as a university member I was able to get a glimpse of Duke Humphrey's Library and the Divinity School.

The former is the oldest part of the Bodleian Library, dating back to 1488. It is here that the visitor can feel the heavy omnipresence of knowledge best: Books, books, books - everywhere! Duke Humphrey's Library consists of ceiling-high storage racks with massive, leather-bound volumes of old books. Dark wood, the ceiling covered with the coat of arms of Thomas Bodley, and a librarian that looks nearly as old as the volumes he takes care of - everything forms one image.

The latter, Divinity School, is even a little bit older. Construction work began in 1424, but the Divinity School opened only in 1483. It was used as a lecture theatre for theologists. Imagine listening to a lecture here, under its lierne vaulting (which looks like a Gothic fan vaulting)! The interior is so impressive that film-producers couldn't resist filming here: In two of the "Harry Potter" movies, the room was used as the hospital wing and the ballroom lectures classroom. Duke Humphrey's Library was used as Hogwarts Library.

Mini Tours through the Bod cost 7 GBP and take 30 minutes, Standard Tours cost 8 GBP and take 60 minutes, Extended Tours take 90 minutes and cost 15.50 GBP. The Divinity School is the only part that can be visited without a tour - the entrance fee is 1 GBP.

Even if you decide against a tour or against a visit to the Divinity School, you mustn't miss the Bodleian Library during a visit to Oxford. The inner courtyard is one of Oxford's most beautiful places. In summer, theatre plays are staged here - if your English is good enough, don't miss a performance! If not, or if you come in winter, do stroll around in the courtyard. Also, don't forget to pay a visit to the souvenir shop, which is one of the nicest I know.
Divinity School
Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the …
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Posted on: Jan 30, 2017
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Airpunk Airpunk
400 reviews
Bodleian Library Jan 15, 2017
The Bodleian Library in its current form was opened in 1603 and is seen as the most important and most prestigious of Oxford University. It is the second-largest library in Britain and can trace its history back to Duke Humphrey's Library of 1488. The oldest known library catalogue in the world was made here and dates from 1605.

The inner court (the so-called quadrangle) can be visited for free, the inside is only accessible to registered readers or if you opt for a guided tour. The library is named after Sir Thomas Bodley who rescued a collection of 12th century books in the very early 1600s. The statue in the Quadrangle is not Sir Thomas Bodley but William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, founder of Pembroke College under James I. and sponsor of William Shakespeare.

Most parts are only accessible as part of a guided tour, there are several of them and some of them include the Radcliffe Camera (see separate tips). The Divinity School is one of the older parts of the library and – beside some of the temporary exhibitions - the only part you can visit without a guided tour. Still, it requires an entry fee of 1 GBP (2016). However, due to scarcity of time, I can not say anything about the quality of the tours as I didn't went on any.
Bodleian Library, Oxford
Bodleian Library, Oxford
Bodleian Library, Oxford
The Earl of Pembroke
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