Friday, July 15, 2011

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library is the main library for the University of Oxford. The library opened in 1320 and the original building was used for about a hundred years. In 1425 a building was constructed that would house the library and an examination room. This building took many years to complete and only three walls were completed. The final wall was completed and fundraising was done to build a ceiling. In 1488 the building was completely finished with extraordinary craftsmanship and detail. The library was nearly destroyed during the Reformation with all but a few books being burned. Sir Thomas Bodley returned to Oxford after traveling and collecting books and reestablished the decimated library collection with his personal collection. The original building would not hold the massive collection Bodley obtained so Sir Christopher Wren was charged to build the structure of the library. Wren reinforced the original building and placed a second level on it along with building some of the buildings surrounding the library.

On the tour we visited Duke Humfrey’s Library and the Radcliffe Camera which are close together. Oxford has many libraries with each library having its own area of expertise. The Bodleian Library is the main library and it is not lending a library. Users must use the materials of the library in the reading rooms only. The collection of the library is massive and is approximately 11 million books. The library owns a copy of every book published in England.

I really enjoyed the architecture and detailed carvings in each of the rooms. The first room we went into was the original building. The original three walls and the ceiling have great detail to them and the fourth wall is less detailed but it accents the rest of the room quite well. On the tour we were told that this main room was the hospital wing in the Harry Potter movies. The upstairs library is the Duke Humfrey’s Library and was the model of the Hogwarts library. One of the interesting things about the Duke Humfrey’s Library is that the books were often on the shelf with the spine towards the back of the shelf and it was chained to the bookshelf.

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