Thursday, 1 April 2010

The magic of books

Last week I was in Oxford and managed to go on a mini-tour of the Bodleian Library. As one of the National Library of Scotland's 5 sister legal deposit libraries, the Bodleian is entitled to a free copy of everything published in the UK, provided they make a claim within a year of the date of publication.

Oxford’s libraries are among the most celebrated in the world, not only for their incomparable collections of books and manuscripts, but also for their buildings, some of which have remained in continuous use since the Middle Ages. The Bodleian, the chief among the University’s libraries, has a special place.

First opened to scholars in 1602, it incorporates an earlier library erected by the University in the fifteenth century to house books donated by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester. The mini-tour took me to this amazing place, with centuries of library hush pressing down from its ornate ceiling. Since 1602 it has expanded - with the first catalogue being produced in 1605 - slowly at first but with increasing momentum over the last 150 years, to keep pace with the ever-growing accumulation of books and papers, but the core of the old buildings has remained intact. Books line the walls and they are no longer chained up; most have been digitised and so are available to view worldwide.

We also admired the beautifully detailed ceiling of the medieval Divinity School, first opened as a lecture theatre in the 15th Century. This, like the Duke Humfrey Library, has been used in the Harry Potter films, but it was the magic of books and learning that has stayed with me. These buildings are still used by students and scholars from all over the world and rightly so!

(Photos by Francine Millard, text taken from the Bodleian history webpage)

1 comment:

Valeria Fioretti said...

Curious to know what the latin inscription in the first picture says? I've found its traslation and history on this website

The Bodleian Library takes its name from Sir Thomas Bodley (1545-1613) whose initials appear in the inscription over the entrance to the Proscholium, on the west face of the Old Schools Quadrangle:


(Academicians of Oxford! Thomas Bodley has built this library for you and for the Republic of the Learned. May the gift turn out well)