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21 May 2015

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A Brief History of the Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library has recently published Mary Clapinson’s A Brief History of the Bodleian Library, which provides a succinct account of the university’s library from its foundation by Sir Thomas Bodley to the present day.

In it she recounts the growth (through gifts, purchases and copyright deposit), of the library’s great collections – from the two thousand volumes available when it first opened its doors to readers in November 1602 to the millions of books, manuscripts, music and maps that it holds today, the bulk of them now housed in a state-of-the-art storage facility on the outskirts of Swindon.

The development of its splendid buildings is traced from the fifteenth-century Duke Humfrey’s Library, through the seventeenth-century Schools Quadrangle and Old Library, and the eighteenth-century Radcliffe Camera, to the New Bodleian, Radcliffe Science Library, Rhodes House Library and Law Library of the twentieth century. The characters and influence of the founder, and of a succession of librarians, benefactors, and members of the governing body of curators, is explored, giving a picture of how between them they forged over the centuries the world-renowned library at the heart of the university.

A Brief History of the Bodleian Library is available to purchase on the Bodleian Library website.

Mary Clapinson read Modern History at St Hugh’s, graduating in 1966, and joined the Bodleian’s Department of Western Manuscripts in 1968. Her principal task, with her colleague Tim Rogers, was the compilation of the New Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts . . . acquired 1916-1975, published in 3 volumes by OUP in 1991. In 1986 she was appointed Keeper of Western Manuscripts and elected Professorial Fellow at St Hugh’s. She was elected Senior Research Fellow in 2003 and Emeritus Fellow in 2011. Her current research is on Bodleian readers in the first half of the seventeenth century.


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