St John's College Library

St John, with his Eagle, sitting on the island of Patmos writing the book of Revelation.
Guided tours icon Library icon Study area icon Wheelchair access icon

St John's College Old Library dates from the 1620s and includes the magnificent Upper Library, an inspiring setting for exhibitions and teaching sessions, and the backdrop to occasional films and documentaries. Its Reading Room draws visitors from all over the world.

The Working Library, intended primarily for members of St John's, opened in 1994, and its up-to-date facilities include WIFI and a well-equipped Seminar Room.

This library has a Designated Collection of national importance.

Venue Type:

Archive, Library

Opening hours

Mon-Fri 9.00-17.00

Closed: Christmas & New Year

Additional info

Our Library is open to the public by appointment only.
We welcome school visits by prior arrangement, please see the 'exhibition and outreach' pages on our website for more details.

The Old Library collection is a Designated Collection of national importance, covering books, manuscripts, personal papers, photographs and artifacts. This collection of college alumni papers is a cohesive and meaningful collection.

The Old Library's special collections include medieval, illuminated, and post-medieval manuscripts, in particular theological, liturgical, medical, and literary works; early printed and rare books from 1466 to the twentieth century, covering the arts, humanities, and sciences; the personal papers of various alumni, with particular emphasis on mathematics and science; nineteenth- and twentieth-century photographs; prints and drawings; and some artefacts. The Working Library houses modern undergraduate and graduate texts, older research collections, and audio-visual materials.

Collection details

World Cultures, Sport, Social History, Science and Technology, Religion, Photography, Natural Sciences, Music, Medicine, Literature, Law and Order, Archives

Key artists and exhibits

  • Medieval manuscripts
  • Illuminated manuscripts
  • The Southampton Psalter
  • The Holland Psalter
  • Oriental manuscripts
  • Early printed books
  • Rare books
  • Bindings
  • Personal papers
  • Archives
  • Photographs
  • Prints and drawings
  • Artefacts
  • John Couch Adams (1819-92)
  • Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-80)
  • Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
  • Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846)
  • Sir John Herschel (1792-1871)
  • Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001)
  • William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
  • Designated Collection
Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

The Art of Anatomy (KS3 and GCSE)

Using illustrations from contemporary manuscripts and printed books from in our Special Collections, this online resource gives a background to how the study of anatomy changed during the renaissance. It is suitable for the GCSE course Medicine and Health through time.

How to obtain

Available free on the St John's College Library website.

Curious People

Discover how Europeans explored the rest of the world through illustrations and first hand accounts in books, maps and papers from the Library's special collections. This online resource on exploration is designed for key stages 3 and 4 but has been enjoyed by people of all ages. It can be accessed thematically or using an interactive timeline.

How to obtain

Available free on the St John's College Library website.

Letters from the past

Using four historical letters from the Library's special collections, these teaching resources aim to encourage young people to engage critically with primary sources. They were originally created from Year 8 students taking part in Cambridge University's 2009 event, 'Letters to the Future'.

How to obtain

Available free on the St John's College Library website.

School Visits (KS2 - A-level)

The Library welcomes educational visits from schools and other organisations. We have worked with local schools to develop half-day sessions in the historical setting of our Old Library, and corresponding classroom visits, based on our wide-ranging special collections. These sessions, outlined on our website, can be tailored to suit the needs of individual classes, and we are also keen to work closely with teachers to develop new resources.

How to obtain

For more information or to arrange a visit please contact the Librarian's Assistant on 01223 338711 or email

St John's College Library
St John's College



General enquiries

Special Collections enquiries

Biographical enquiries


01223 338662


+44 (0)1223 337035

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.