The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford form the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. They include the principal University library—the Bodleian Library—which has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years; major research libraries; and libraries attached to faculties, departments and other institutions of the University. The combined library collections number more than 11 million printed items, in addition to 30,000 e-journals and vast quantities of materials in other formats.
This library has Designated Collections of national importance.
Archive, Library, Gallery, Heritage site
The Special Collections at the Bodleian Library: Rare books, Manuscripts and Archives, Maps, Music, and Oxford University Archives are Designated Collections of national importance.
These collections include many rare and important items. Highlights amongst them are the only Shakespeare First Folio still in its original home, Handel’s conducting score of 'Messiah', the Gutenberg Bible, Mary Shelley's manauscript of 'Frankenstein', Holst’s autograph of 'The Planets' to name just a few.
Key artists and exhibits
- Designated Collection
The Great War
- 12 June — 2 November 2014 *on now
Using letters and diaries of politicians, soldiers and civilians, all in some way connected with Oxford University, the exhibition relates contemporary experiences of the Great War. It concentrates on the years 1914 to 1916, from the outbreak of war to the end of the battle of the Somme and the fall of Asquith.
One theme of the exhibition is the challenge of leadership during wartime, and it features letters of two Prime Ministers, one brought down by the war, and another whose experience as an officer in the trenches was the foundation of his political career. It was forbidden to record Cabinet discussions, but an unauthorised diary kept by the Colonial Secretary provides a window on Asquith’s Cabinet, complete with character sketches of some of the leading players, including Winston Churchill.
Letters of Oxford alumni who served as junior officers in the trenches on the western front and in far flung parts of the empire convey not only their experiences but also their ideas and beliefs about the war. In Oxford academics engaged in fierce public debate about the war, while in one Essex village, the local rector compiled a diary to record the impact of war on his community, forming a chronicle which he passed on to the Bodleian Library at the end of each year. The rich print resources of the Library, including trench maps, posters, pamphlets and books, many acquired during the war, provide a backdrop to these personal stories.
The exhibition is part of a series of three different but connected exhibitions in three countries looking at ‘War in the Archives’. The Bodleian exhibition is the second of the three, between August 1914 Literatur und Krieg at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach, and 1914, La Mort des Poètes at the Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire de Strasbourg, which will open in the Autumn of 2014
- Any age
Heritage Open Days 2014: Bodleian Library
- 14 September 2014
See 3 magnificent ceremonial rooms in the Old Bodleian Library. Marvel at the beautiful carved stone ceiling in this masterpiece of English Gothic architecture. Explore Convocation House, where Parliament was held during the Civil War. Don’t forget to look in Chancellor’s Court, formerly used as the University’s Court. Special Open Day 10% discount in shop.
Please refer to the Heritage Open Days website for booking details and timings.