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Title: The Bodleian Library at Oxford

Author: Falconer Madan

Release date: April 5, 2023 [eBook #70470]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: Duckworth & co, 1919

Credits: deaurider and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)










First published 1919


The present volume is a short description of a great library, and forms part of a series of treatises on educational subjects which may, it is hoped, constitute some vindication of a classical and liberal education. The author trusts that this sketch of the history and contents of the Bodleian, which ranks first among the institutions of the University, may be of use to encourage the “studies of good learning,” and thereby to carry forward in some measure the ideals of Oxford. The chief difficulty has been to compress the subject within the necessary limits of the series, but the list of authorities on p. 64 will indicate sources of further information.

Permission to make use of the plan which forms the frontispiece was courteously granted by Dr. Cowley, the present Librarian of the Bodleian.

November, 1919.




I. Libraries and their Kinds 7
II. Sir Thomas Bodley and his Foundation, 1598-1613 14
III. The Bodleian Library, 1613-1860 23
IV. The Bodleian Library in Modern Times 34
V. The Manuscript and Other Treasures of the Library 43
VI. Methods and Materials of Modern Study 57
Index 65
Plan of Bodleian Reading Rooms and Picture Gallery


Notice to Readers

(All readers must at their first coming be entered in the Admission Registers and make the usual declaration.)

The Bodleian Library was founded in 1602, and for size and importance (together) ranks first among University libraries, second among English-speaking peoples, and about eighth in the world. Readers are therefore requested to use it, not for trivial purposes, but for study and research.

The Old Reading Boom (O.R.R.) and Upper Reading Room (U.R.R.) are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Jan. Nov. Dec.; to 4 p.m. in Feb. Mar. Aug. Sept. Oct.; to 5 p.m. in Apr. May, June, July. The Camera Reading Room is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Camera contains most books printed since 1883, except Bibliography, Law, Music, English Drama, British Topography and Antiquities, with a few other sections. At Bodley there is a Reference library (books marked R and Ψ), and at the Camera a large Select and Reference library (marked S).

General Catalogue of Printed Books. There is a copy in the U.R.R. (Bodley), and at the Camera. Catalogues of MSS. The official copies are in the O.R.R.: working copies are also in the O.R.R. and in the Cam. R.R. Forms for ordering Books and MSS. are in each Reading Room.

Seats. Any unoccupied desk may be taken by a reader, except that twelve desks at the Selden End are assigned by the Librarian. The number of seats is, in O.R.R. 63, in U.R.R. 24, in Cam. R.R. 74 (+ 12 for Music students and 12 in the Science Room).

Reserving books. MSS. and rare books should be used in the O.R.R. and cannot be reserved, but should be given up each time that the reader leaves. An ordinary book or an orderly pile of books, if reserved by a slip of paper bearing name and date, is left in O.R.R. 3 days at seat, 7 days more in an adjacent reserve (but at Selden End, 10 days at seat): in U.R.R. 3 days at seat, 7 in reserve: in the Cam. R.R. books to be reserved should be brought to the Assistant’s table (each work with the reserving slip), and will there be reserved for 7 days. Unreserved books and all Reference and Select books are cleared away daily. A reasonable limit for reserved books is in general twenty volumes.

Tracing and painting need special permission. Photography is undertaken by the Clarendon Press: order forms are supplied on application.

For further information see a Manual for Readers, supplied gratis on application.




Speech and Writing.

The two most important human inventions are perhaps Speech and Writing. In no adequate way could man fully express his mental activities except by speech: nor could he adequately record them except by writing. And to some extent the development of the two ran a parallel course, for just as early Speech is largely an imitation of natural sounds (Onomatopœia), so early Writing is probably, in the first instance, entirely from pictures (pictograms), which from the need of acceleration became worn down to simpler forms, and finally to letters; the sense similarly declining from the plain or derivative ideas arising from pictures, to mere syllables with no intrinsic meaning, and finally to simple sounds corresponding to letters. But even this latest stage was reached in the Valley of the Nile by, or not long after, 3000 B.C., as is testified by a stelè representing the cult of Send, a king of the second Egyptian Dynasty (now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford), in which the letters S, N, D occur in a cartouche; while in 1750 the North American Indians used pictograms, and the practice is not yet extinct, for we use the symbol ☞

Early Libraries.

As soon as Writing occurs in a portable form, whether as cylinders of baked clay in Assyria, or as tablets of bark, wood or wax, or as sheets of parchment or paper, there is a volume, and there is the possibility of a collection of books which forms a Library. The earliest library of which a plan can be reconstructed was discovered at Nineveh by Layard and dates from about 700 B.C. Of early Egyptian libraries no trace has been found; but under the Macedonian dynasty of the Ptolemies the great library at Alexandria in Egypt was founded about 285 B.C.[8] About libraries in Greece information is very scant until the time of Euripides (fifth century B.C.) In Italy, the earliest public library was founded soon after 39 B.C. by C. Asinius Pollio, and under Augustus at least two more were instituted at Rome; and by the fourth century at least twenty-five or so were there erected, but all of them are stated to have been closed down, “bybliothecis sepulcrorum ritu in perpetuum clausis” (Ammianus Marcellinus). Of course these public libraries had been preceded by private collections, of which records are few and far between.

Before the second century B.C. the contents of Greek and Roman libraries were not books in the form to which we are accustomed, but rolls of papyrus, and the fittings of libraries were accordingly shelves with vertical divisions forming pigeon-holes, into which a roll or rolls were thrust. But the advantages of parchment as a material to bear writing were so obvious that the long rolls wrapped round a stick (rotuli) gave way gradually to the well-known form appropriate to parchment or paper, namely sewn and bound leaves (codices) either quarto—which was found at first to be the most convenient size—or folio or octavo. The receptacles in libraries (at Rome) were no longer pigeon-holes (nidi, foruli) or long narrow boxes (loculamenta), but undivided shelves (either fixed to the wall, pegmata, or standing against it, plutei). The wall space above these various forms of shelving was usually filled with decorative portraits or busts of great authors. Perhaps it is not accidental that in the great library collected by Sir Robert Cotton (now in the British Museum) the various parts were called (as they are still referred to) by the names of the Roman Emperors whose busts surmounted each division, and in the Bodleian, after the Civil War, the wall divisions of the Picture Gallery were surmounted by a series of ornamental medallions and portraits above the ordinary pictures on the walls. The books, whether disposed in regular book cases or in cupboards (armaria) with doors, were in Roman times laid on their side.

Mediæval Libraries.

The classical tradition concerning the care of books was apparently carried on with little change during the first five centuries of the Christian era. Ecclesiastical libraries were kept in churches, as classical libraries were usually connected with temples. It is usual to date the organization of mediæval collections from the Rule of St. Benedict in the sixth century; and the Order which he founded, with its direct offshoots, the Cluniacs, Carthusians and Cistercians, were foremost in assigning a place to literature in the daily duties of the monk. The gradual evolution[9] of the library can be traced from the time when a few volumes could be accommodated in a press or presses in a recess or small room, usually at the north-east corner of the cloister near the chapter-house, to the fully developed collections of the fifteenth century, housed in a large separate room, which was almost always on the first floor, perhaps to avoid damp and to secure a good light.

The following figures will illustrate the size of some considerable mediæval libraries in various places and times.

Date. Place. Volumes.
A.D. 831 St. Riquier (French abbey) 250
10th cent. Bobbio (Italian monastery) 700
12th cent. Durham Cathedral about 700
1300 Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury about 1850
1395 Durham Cathedral 921
1418 Peterhouse, Cambridge 380
1424 University Library, Cambridge 122
1472 Queens’ College, Cambridge 199
1473 University Library, Cambridge 330
Library Fittings.

The earliest fittings for the convenience of readers which still exist suggest that at any rate in collegiate institutions the first kind of desk was on what Mr. J. Willis Clark termed the Lectern system. One has to imagine a double lectern (that is, two plain lecterns placed back to back) so prolonged as to hold say five to fifteen volumes on each side, every volume lying on its side and being chained to the desk. The reader stood or sat, and the open book lay before him at a convenient angle, as in church lecterns. The system was obviously very wasteful of space, and was evolved from the time when one or two books only were brought out of the cupboard (armarium) for a reader’s use on a desk resembling a lectern, near a window. In the fifteenth century the normal type of library was a narrow room of considerable length, lighted by narrow windows at short intervals. From the wall-spaces between the windows there projected into the room at right angles to the wall the lectern desks described above, the desks by this time being probably fitted beneath with shelves on which the (chained) books could stand upright, and be pulled out on to the lectern for purposes of reading.

Next came the “Stall system.” In this, the cases projecting from the wall are just book-cases, of three or four or even more shelves on each side of the case, and the lectern part is superseded by a flat desk in front of, and attached to, the shelves[10] at which a reader sits, and on which he places the (chained) book he takes down from a shelf above him. The earliest example of these is at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1517), and they are still in use in the Old Reading Room (“Duke Humphrey”) of the Bodleian; and in the Chapter library at Hereford, the very chains of the books are still preserved.

The modern practice of lining the walls of our rooms with book-shelves, though in one sense a reversion to an ancient type, in another is a definite change of system, of which examples are found in the sixteenth century abroad, but the first in England is in the Bodleian. In the Old Reading Room Sir Thomas Bodley reproduced the stall system. But when in his last days he erected an additional room (the Arts End) his choice fell on the newer idea that a wide space should be left in the middle of the room, and the books be all placed against the walls (1613). The lower books (folios) were still chained, and could only be used at the desks attached; such was the case, for instance, with the First Folio of Shakespeare, marked S. 2.17 Art. (see p. 46). The Gallery books were quartos and octavos, not chained, and given out to readers below by one of the officers of the Library. This arrangement was imitated in the Selden End, which was completed in 1640.

Kinds of Libraries.

So far an attempt has been made to sketch briefly the evolution of a library in ancient and mediæval times. The plan of the present chapter of generalities now requires that we should consider the kinds of modern library, and the position which the Bodleian holds among them.

There are libraries and libraries. There are libraries of Reference or, as they are sometimes termed, Deposit; and there are libraries of the second rank, adapted for local and popular use. These two kinds are typical, and fall apart, as will be seen, by the application of a simple test.

The first public literary need of a district is a library of the latter type, one in which it is more important that the books should be in general use by lending and by free access to the shelves, than that they should be invested with a fictitious importance and too jealously guarded. This is the way to fan the faint sparks of literary instinct, and is still the common condition of most villages and even towns. But wherever literature has taken a long and firm hold there is a desire for a public library of another kind. By this time private libraries abound, and every serious student surrounds himself with the ordinary books on his special subject. And the public library shares in this general elevation of the personal standard; it[11] becomes a necessary complement to individual effort. It supplies not only the ordinary works on every subject, but also the extraordinary and special books, and owing to the value of its contents has to restrict or abolish the custom of lending, in order that there may be continuous accessibility to its volumes. This division into two kinds is deep and real. The two fall apart according to their answer to the question, Do you in any real sense aim at being complete? All libraries of the second order confess that, in cases where they aim at any completeness, it is in a special subdivision or set of subdivisions of literature—incunabula, local books, and so on, or a working series of general reference volumes, or a departmental library rich in books on a particular science. But every library of the first class must have universality and completeness (within human limitations) as its theoretical aim, and must have made substantial progress towards its goal. In countries like Great Britain and the United States there are almost numberless libraries, many of them really large ones; but above them there tower the few, the very few, Libraries of Deposit. These are the super-Dreadnoughts of the literary world, and the Bodleian claims to be among them. It is an especial glory of Sir Thomas Bodley that he, a man of the world as well as a genuine scholar, planned from the first a library of the highest order.

Of this highest class it may be said that a really great library should have Universal scope, Independence, Size, Permanence, Wealth, and multiform Utility. Its Catalogue is not a mere book-finder, but a scientific work. Open access and lending are given up, but the Reference library is large. The aim of the British Museum to possess the largest French library outside France, and so with other foreign departments, and to store all local newspapers, is beyond praise.

Within the second class of libraries the manifold and various needs of modern students have resulted in a large number of kinds, which have been so seldom and so incompletely methodized that the following first attempt at their classification may be allowed, though cross-divisions cannot be entirely avoided.


Size of Libraries.

It remains to indicate the place among libraries which the Bodleian Library, the Library of the University of Oxford, appears to occupy among the libraries of the world. In the absence of all proper standardization of statistics, size (as estimated by the reputed number of volumes, not works) must be first regarded, and next importance, such as that due to manuscripts, incunabula and the like. Mere size may not connote importance, for the million volumes claimed by Messrs. Foyle, of 121 Charing Cross Road, London, do not raise their twenty miles of shelving to the rank of a really great library. So too the large collections of printed books in the United States are as yet wanting in the special importance derived from the ancient and cardinal manuscripts which enrich some of the libraries of Europe.

The following libraries of the Old World contain a million or more volumes, in the opinion of Dr. Fortescue, late Keeper of the Printed Books in the British Museum, expressed in 1912, and compared with numbers given in the last edition of Minerva (1913), and with other sources of information.

Library. Printed volumes. MS. volumes.
British Museum, London 3,750,000 Fort. 60,000.
National Library, Paris 3,500,000 Fort. 111,000 Min.
3,500,000 Min. 111,000 Min.
Petrograd 1,880,000 Fort.
2,044,000 Min. 124,000 Min.
Berlin 1,400,000 Fort.
1,450,000 Min. 30,000 Min.
Munich 1,100,000 Fort.
1,100,000 Min. 50,000 Min.
Vienna 1,000,000 Fort.
1,000,000 Min. 27,000 Min.

The value of the MSS. (45,000 Min.) in the Vatican Library at Rome raises it to the first rank, though its printed volumes are only reckoned to be 400,000 (Min.). The size of the great libraries in the United States is undoubted, but, as has been[13] remarked, the absence of large and valuable collections of MSS. reduces their importance. In the Library of Congress at Washington, where the printed volumes (“books and pamphlets”) are estimated in the Annual Report for 1915 at 2,364,000, the mileage of occupied shelves is believed to be eighty or more, which is not far from double that of the British Museum. The New York Public Library is estimated to contain about 1,920,000 volumes (Fort.) or 2,090,000 (Min.). The Boston Public Library is believed to possess 1,050,000 volumes (Min.).

A statistical survey of the Bodleian Library was made in 1915, with the following results:—

Printed volumes 1,050,000
Of which folios 175,000
quartos 350,000
octavos 525,000
Separate pieces 2,060,000
Separate items (including fly-sheets etc.) 3,000,000
Manuscript volumes 40,000
(Not counting characters, rolls, etc.) 20,000

(Full details are printed in No. 9, Vol. I, of the Bodleian Quarterly Record, April, 1916. The total number of printed books in the world, i.e. separate works, has been estimated at about 12,000,000.)

The Bodleian may fairly claim to rank in size about ninth, and in size and importance (together) about eighth. It is the largest and most important University library in the world, and the largest (at any rate in the Old World) which is not aided out of State funds. It claims also to be one of the earliest public libraries of Europe, in the sense that it has always been open to those who bring a sufficient recommendation, practically without distinction of class or nationality. In early days a small charge was made on first admission.



The old University Libraries.

The cradle of the University is in the vaulted chamber at the north-east corner of St. Mary’s Church, still called the Old Congregation House. The present building was begun in 1320 on behalf of Thomas de Cobham, Bishop of Worcester, and consisted of a lower chamber for University meetings and an upper chamber for a library. The shell was finished by his death in 1327; but not till a dispute with Oriel College about the possession of Cobham’s books was settled in 1410, was there a library in full establishment. The books were taken from the two chests in which they had lain since 1337 in the lower room, and were chained in the upper room to desks with seats fixed beside them. In 1412 a statute settled the regulations, and ensured that the librarian[1] should also be a chaplain of the University.

In 1345 Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, author of the first book on the love of books (the Philobiblon), bequeathed his library to Durham College (now Trinity College), but it is hardly doubtful that the books never reached Oxford, and that his intended library “free to all scholars” never came into being.

The second University library was built over the Divinity School, chiefly because the gifts of MSS. by Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, far exceeded the capacity of the little solar at St. Mary’s to receive them. The School was begun about 1420, and by 1480 both it and the book-room were complete. The latter is now the “Old Reading Room” of Bodley’s foundation. But between 1550 and 1556 the Commissioners appointed by Edward VI for the reformation of the University wantonly destroyed almost the whole of the contents of the library, so much so that on January 25, 1556, the University gave orders[15] that the very fitting of the library should be sold. There were no books left to attract a reader. Of the six hundred or more MSS. in the old room, not more than eleven can be still identified (at Oxford, the British Museum and Paris) and only four are still in their old home (MSS. Hatton 36, Duke Humphrey b. 1 and d. 1, Selden B. 50).

From 1550 till 1598 a dead silence falls on the University library: the bare walls are there, and perhaps the roof also, but no books and “no voice, nor any that answered.” So too the University library at Cambridge (which is first mentioned in 1397) was used as a Theological School from 1547 to 1586 (“quoniam ut nunc nulli est usui” bibliotheca, as the grace says), but the books were on the shelves all the while, to the number of about 180.

Sir Thomas Bodley.

Sir Thomas Bodley, a “worthy of Devon” and a diplomat high in the esteem of Queen Elizabeth, came of an old Devonshire stock which probably originated in Budleigh. When the founder of it left Budleigh at some unrecorded time, he would be at once known as Thomas (or whatever the name may have been) de Budleigh or Bodley. A family of that name was settled for many generations at Dunscombe, a hamlet of Crediton, and John Bodley, the father of Sir Thomas, had left Dunscombe and settled in Exeter, when his son was born there on March 2, 1545. His wife was Joan (née Hone) of Ottery St. Mary. The whole family was worried out of England in Queen Mary’s reign, and the young Thomas was brought up at Geneva till the accession of Queen Elizabeth, when the whole family returned to England, and settled in London. In 1559 the son was entered at Magdalen College, Oxford, his tutor, Laurence Humphrey (who in 1561 was elected President), having shared the exile of John Bodley. After Bodley’s degree in 1563 he became a Fellow of Merton, and successively Greek lecturer, Natural Philosophy lecturer, Proctor (1569-70), and deputy Public Orator. There is evidence also that he studied Hebrew at Oxford as well as in his younger days at Geneva. Lastly, he travelled for nearly four years in Italy, France and Germany.

Bodley was therefore well-equipped for a career of public life, and worthy to ascend that admirable ladder which the Queen set up through the Chancellors of the two Universities, to attract the best men of the time to the service of the state. After two years’ preliminary employment in London his diplomatic career opened in 1585. It continued till 1598, when his activity and statesmanship had shewn itself in missions to Denmark, Germany, France and the Low Countries.[16] In 1597 he married a rich widow, Mrs. Anne Ball (née Carey), of Totnes, but had no family by her.[2]

At last, at the age of fifty-two, being tired of statecraft and the Court, and “for the loue” he bore to his “reuerend Mother the Vniversitie of Oxon,” and in order to “do the true part of a profitable member in the State” he decided to offer to restore the old University library, or in his own memorable words “examining exactlye for the rest of my life, what course I might take, and haueing sowght (as I thought) all the wayes to the wood, to select the most proper, I concluded at the last, to set vp my Staffe at the Librarie dore in Oxon; being throwghly perswaded, that in my solitude, and surcease from the Commonwealth affayers, I coulde not busie my selfe to better purpose, then by redusing that place (which then in euery part laye ruined and wast) to the publique vse of Studients. For the effecting whereof, I found my selfe furnished in a competent proportion, of such fower kindes of ayds, as vnles I had them all, there was no hope of good successe: for without some kinde of knowledg, as well in the learned and moderne tongues, as in sundry other sorts of Scholasticall literature, without some purse habilitie to goe throwgh with the charge, without very great store of honorable friends, to further the designe, and without speciall good leasure to follow such a worke, it could but have proued a vayne attempt and inconsiderate.” To have knowledge what to do, money to do it, friends to help it, and leisure to see it done—on those four qualifications the Founder based his offer to the University, dated February 23, 1598. The old dismantled room with its bare fifteenth century walls was there, making its mute appeal, and at last the Hour and the Man came. The “spacious times of great Elizabeth” provided, not a youthful enthusiast, but a man of world-wide experience, with all the learning which Oxford could impart, with ample means, with friends at Court, and with a fixed purpose for his years of retirement.

The New Library.

The offer was of course accepted with gratitude, and the work began at once. In four and a half years, on Monday, November 8, 1602, the new public library of the University[3] was solemnly opened,[17] with about two thousand volumes. The appearance of the room can be gathered from Bodley’s own letters and the existing fittings. On the frontispiece of the present volume it is marked OLD READING ROOM, an oblong chamber standing by itself, with ten alcoves on either side, each with its own window, and a bookcase at right angles to the wall, which separates each study from its neighbours. The entrance was by a staircase at the West or Selden end, in a porch of the Divinity School below. At the farthest (or East) end of the room the two last alcoves were the Librarian’s and Underkeeper’s studies, and there was an East window to light the central passage, facing which window were two closed cupboards or “Archives” on each side of the gangway. The present room is so little altered from its first condition that all these features can be still recognised or understood. In 1602 the two thousand volumes would occupy about one quarter of the accommodation, and no doubt the folios were soon chained in their places, while the quartos and octavos were relegated to the cupboards and to a gallery over the door at the West end. These latter, having no chains, were given out as required. The windows, painted ceiling, bookcases and cupboards remain as in 1602, but the central passage was several inches lower than the floor of the alcoves. There is even a register of the names of the readers and whether they came in the morning (8-11) or afternoon (2-5, or 1-4, according to the season), for the whole of the first year. Moreover there is a catalogue of the entire contents of the shelves in the order in which the books stood on the opening day.

Dr. James.

Bodley’s first “Protobibliothecarius Bodleianus” was Thomas James,[4] who had issued an edition of Richard de Bury’s Philobiblon in 1598, and in 1600 the Ecloga Oxonio-Cantabrigiensis (catalogues of MSS. at Oxford and Cambridge), besides being well known as a learned defender of Protestantism. The appointment was probably formally made in 1602, when delegates were appointed to superintend the Library. His sole assistant for some years was the “Cleaner,” but some of the delegates were able to give informal help.

But, as may be well imagined, Bodley was in these early days a host in himself. All the details of management were referred to him, and as the Library had as yet no endowment,[18] all the accessions by purchase were paid for by him. Fortunately a long series of letters from Bodley to James between 1601 and 1612 is preserved, and displays to us every stage of the evolution of the Bodleian, and also the humorous conflicts between the Founder, pursuing an ideal and controlling at every point the management of his institution, and his Librarian, a student intent on his own literary aims, obstinate, and not over desirous of spending the six hours a day at the Library which Bodley considered reasonable, in addition to the four he needed for his own work. Bodley wished his Librarians to be “some one that is noted and knowen for a diligent Student, and in all his conuersation to be trustie, actiue, and discreete, a graduat also and a Linguist, not encombred with mariage, nor with a benefice of Cure,” and James greatly irritated him by extorting a most reluctant leave both to marry and to hold the Rectory of St. Aldate’s. The Founder’s style is racy and pertinent: when James desires an increase of his stipend of £22: 13: 4 a year, Bodley writes “I do not doubt but to give you very good satisfaction: but till your Travels [i.e. travails] and Troubles are seen to every Student, it will be best in my Opinion, not to charge the Spit with too much Roast-meat.” When benefactors are about, Bodley is specially alert in converting promise into performance: in a case of promise they “should be called on, with all the good speed that Conveniency, fit Time and good Manners will afford. For many Men’s Minds do alter so soon, as it will be requisite always to open the Poak, when the Pig is presented.”[5] The relations of the two were on the whole cordial, and James worked hard for the Library. The worth of the nascent foundation was recognized in 1604 by the conferment of knighthood on Bodley, and its permanent endowment began in 1609 by the gift by him of lands at Cookham and in Distaff Lane, London.[6]

King James I.

By 1605 the Library was in full working order, and two great events distinguish the year. On August 30 King James I paid a visit to the Library, examined various MSS., especially some Old English versions of the Bible, praised the “garden” whence came the[19] “fruits” he had observed in University men, and in a burst of benevolence promised any precious and rare volumes from the royal libraries which Bodley might select.[7] Bodley was greatly excited about the royal visit, and even as early as June had warned James that his speech “must be short and sweet, and full of Stuff” and “may not exceed the Length of six Pater Nosters.” He ordered the Library to be well swept, the books cleansed from dust, “the Floor to be well washed and dried, and after rubbed with a little Rosemary: for a stronger sent I should not like.” Finally, he adds, “I know, as near as you can, you will frame your Meditation, to the King’s Pronunciation of i and au.”

First Catalogue.

The second event of 1605 was the issue of the first printed Catalogue of the printed books and MSS. The three Catalogues issued in the seventeenth century (1605, 1620, 1674) were all pioneers in bibliography, and the fifth (1843-51) marks the end of the long period during which the Bodleian was the largest library in the British Empire. Of the first, Bodley writes that “the general Conceit, as well of other Nations as of our own at home, of the Library-store, is so great, that they imagine in a manner, there is nothing wanting in it.” Yet in the Arts section, which includes Literature and History, there are only thirty-six books in the English language. The Library was intended for scholars and students, and it is to be feared that Bodley included nearly all English books among the “Baggage Books” and “Riff Raff” which were excluded. So keen, however, was Bodley that nothing should escape him which was worth having, that he wrote in 1607, “You shall never see that any good Books shall be lost for want of buying, though I find no Contributors: albeit you need not doubt, but I shall always find sufficient money.” The books are arranged in the Catalogue in the order in which they stood on the shelves, divided into the Faculties of Theology, Medicine, Law, Arts, and further subdivided according to the first letter of the author’s name (Th. A-Z, Med. A-Z, etc.), but there is an alphabetical index of authors. James also planned (and partly executed) a series of Subject Catalogues, and proposed what would now be called an Undergraduates’ library, but the latter received scant encouragement from the Founder. The spirit in which he worked is well expressed by his entry on an interesting occasion in an Album Amicorum of Frederick Kemener, “Non quæro quod mihi vtile est sed quod multis.[20] Amoris ergo scripsit Tho: James primus Bibliothecarius eodem die quo primo Bibliotheca patuit studentibus viz. Anno 1602. Die Nouembris 8ᵒ.”

Stationers’ Company’s Agreement.

The outstanding occurrence in the later years of the Founder’s life was undoubtedly the Agreement with the Stationers’ Company (that is to say the whole body of licensed printers and publishers in Great Britain) by which one copy of every book issued by a member of the Company was sent to the Bodleian, gratis. The date of the Agreement is December 12, 1610 (the Company) and February 22, 1611 (Congregation), and far-reaching were its effects. The idea was suggested to Bodley by his Librarian, and there were many “Rubs and Delays.” The advantage to the publishers was that whenever an edition ran out of print, there would always be a “perfect copy” available for reprint or amendment, and the presentation of a piece of plate worth £50 settled their remaining scruples. The first book which came in under the Agreement was Thomas Man’s Christian Religion substantially ... treatised (London, pr. by Felix Kingston for Thomas Man, 1611) sent by John Man, Master of the Company, and bearing a note in Bodley’s own hand. The Library has never lost this privilege—which is long antecedent to, and independent of, the Copyright Acts. The grant was confirmed by an Order of Star-Chamber on July 11, 1637. The first similar grant by Parliament was made, no doubt on grounds of public utility, to the Bodleian and a few other libraries in 1662, and the first Copyright Act, recognizing the Bodleian right and granting it to eight other libraries, was in 1709. The latest is dated 1912.

Early Constitution.

By the time of the Founder’s death (January 28, 1613) the Library had a set of Statutes (1610) and a settled constitution, the Librarian having an Under-keeper and a Janitor under him, and being himself under eight Curators, who could call him to account for remissness or misconduct, but left him very large powers in matters of detail. The Library was open on all weekdays from 8 to 11 a.m., except when there was a University Sermon or other service, and in the afternoons from 2-5 from Easter to Michaelmas, or 1-4 from Michaelmas to Easter. All Doctors, Masters and Bachelors could claim the right of reading, except that Bachelors of Arts must be of two years standing. All others had to take an oath at entry, and if not benefactors or highborn, and especially if foreigners, had to obtain a decree in their favour in Congregation. Lending out books was absolutely forbidden.


First Extension.

Bodley had seen the first extension of his Library when the “Arts End” (see frontispiece) was built in 1610-12. All the Arts books were there placed, allowing the older part to retain the books of the three superior Faculties of Theology, Medicine and Jurisprudence. But shortly before his death the University had formed a plan of building the “Schools Quadrangle,” or rather three sides, which together with the Arts End would form a quadrangle, and Bodley in his Will (January 2, 1613) wrote “for as much as the perpetuall preseruation, support & maintenance of the Publique Librarie ... dothe greatly surpasse all my other worldly cares, and because I doe foresee that in proces of time there must of necessitie be very great want of ... stowage for Bookes,” he provides for a second-floor room to over-top the two stories needed for the Lecture Rooms or Schools of the University, and to form a reserve of space for an overflow of books. This was completed in 1618. The accounts for August 1613, to July 1614, the first complete year since Bodley’s death, show an income of £137 from property, and expenditure of £110 (stipends £51, establishment £6, purchase of books £13, binding £14, miscellaneous £24).


We need not be surprised that with such a founder and such a building and administration, the Bodleian gathered treasures within its walls from its earliest days. Of these a few may be mentioned. The great Registrum Benefactorum instituted by Bodley begins in 1600, two years before the opening of the Library, showing how keen was the spirit he stirred up among his friends, but no gifts of single volumes are recorded. Accordingly we can only conjecture that the Founder himself gave the fine MS. French Romance of Alexander, with the Travels of Marco Polo, which was certainly received before 1605 (S.C. 2464). It is notable for the illuminations, including a remarkable view of Venice in the fourteenth century, and for the numerous marginal pictures of customs, trades and amusements (perhaps English). In 1601 in the Thomas Allen donation came “the patriarch of all Welsh books known,” written in 820 (S.C. 2176). In another part of the same volume is a contemporary portrait of St. Dunstan (d. 988), who owned that part. In the following year the Dean and Chapter of Exeter gave eighty-one Latin MSS., one of which is the famous Leofric Missal (S.C. 2675), one of the very few Missals known to have been used in a pre-Conquest English Church, in this case Exeter Cathedral. It is striking, and touching, that Sir Robert Cotton, who was forming his own great collection, now represented by the[22] Cottonian Collection in the British Museum, was a firm friend of his rival collector and presented to his friend’s new Library, in 1603, eleven MSS. of value, including Latin Gospels, perhaps of the seventh century (S.C. 2698). In 1605 the Librarian was able to say that the Library contained books in thirty or more languages, and that it was already frequented by foreigners (Italian, French, German, Polish, Swedish and other), and Bacon calls it “an ark to save learning from deluge.” The Oriental literature may be regarded as beginning in this year with the donation and purchase of Chinese books. The Dean and Chapter of Windsor imitated their brethren of Exeter in 1612, by sending sixty-seven volumes of MSS., chiefly theological.



The scale of the present work will not allow of more than a sketch of the development of the Library for the long period included in the chapter heading above. The chief treasures, more in detail, will be mentioned in Chapter V.

Early Fears.

There was an ebb-tide in the Library affairs for some years after Bodley’s death on January 28, 1613—a kind of reaction. James was getting old (though he did not resign till 1620), and a set-back was experienced from the defalcations of Sir John Bennet, one of Bodley’s executors, who defrauded the nascent institution of at least £450. It must have been to some extent a doubtful time. The good ship had been well built, launched and equipped, but would it stand the open sea, when its designer and builder was no longer at hand and its capacity of enduring stress was as yet untried? Looking back on the development of the Bodleian, we can now see that the memory of Bodley’s personality, and the results of his practical wisdom as displayed in the Statutes, did carry on the Library tradition until the gathering clouds of the Civil War; that then it secured its position by being perhaps the only safe repository for literary collections during the Civil War and Commonwealth troubles; that throughout the ensuing century and a half it attracted immense donations; so that in fact until about 1850 it remained the premier library in the kingdom, though the British Museum had been founded in 1753. Since 1850 the great National Library has assumed clear pre-eminence, having the support of public funds and being acknowledged by all to be the chief library of the Empire.

The Second Catalogue.

In 1620 a new catalogue of the Library was published by Bodley’s Librarian, Dr. Thomas James, which is in the form to which we are all accustomed—that is to say it is an Author-catalogue, arranged by authors’ names in alphabetical order. English literature is still quite a subordinate feature in it, owing to the Founder’s principles; and under Shakespeare’s name no single entry is to be found. Another curious feature is that no English translations of Latin or Greek or even French or Italian books are allowed to appear. Those who knew no Greek or Latin, and needed “cribs” were not welcomed. James resigned his[24] office in this year and was succeeded by John Rouse,[8] the friend of Milton. His puritanical tendencies undoubtedly helped him to save the Library from damage during the sieges of Oxford in the great war.

New Accessions.

At last, in 1629, began the flow of Collections towards the Library, soon after Laud had become Bishop of London. In that year arrived “that famous library of Giacomo Barocci” (as Ussher calls it), consisting of 242 Greek MSS. The donor was the Chancellor of the University, the Earl of Pembroke, and twenty-four MSS. which were omitted came in 1654 through Oliver Cromwell. Sir Thomas Roe, the English ambassador to Turkey, also sent twenty-eight Greek MSS. The original manuscript of Leland’s Itinerary and Collectanea came in 1632 from William Burton, the historian of Leicestershire. They contain topographical and literary notes of the earliest survey of England (with the partial exception of William of Worcester, whose journeyings were chiefly in Somerset, including Bristol, and Norfolk), and with some later transcripts form the whole of the sources of the text. In 1634 came 238 MSS. forming the Digby collection, which is of special value for the early history of science in England, containing for instance the earliest meteorological observations known, by William de Merle, Fellow of Merton, taken from 1337 to 1344. Thirty-six more (Oriental) MSS. came from Sir Kenelm Digby among the Laudian MSS. in 1639.

Laud’s Gifts.

But the great name of Archbishop Laud overshadows all the rest of this period. By great good-fortune the Western extension of the Old Reading Room (now called the Selden End, which balances the Eastern extension or Arts End, see frontispiece) was begun in 1634 and finished in 1640, and into the new room there poured the manuscript treasures acquired by the Archbishop to the number of 1242 volumes. It is a miscellaneous collection in at least twenty languages, Western and Oriental, partly acquired from Germany, especially Würzburg. The two outstanding volumes are Codex E of the Acts, an uncial Greek-Latin text of the seventh century, once owned by the Venerable Bede (S.C. 1119), and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, written at Peterborough and continued to 1154, three-quarters of a century later than any other copy of the famous Chronicle (S.C. 1003); others are mentioned in Chapter V.

The bequest of Robert Burton’s books in 1640 was especially valuable, because the author of the Anatomy of Melancholy read so discursively, and collected not only the graver works[25] which Bodley loved, but especially the lighter literature of the day: it is satisfactory to note that all these were accepted by Rouse, as indeed they would have been by James.

The Civil War.

The Civil War was an anxious time for the Library, from the difficulty of safeguarding it from irruption and violence. The care with which the Library has always guarded its contents from the risk of loss by lending out is well exemplified by Rouse’s action when the King, on December 30, 1645, demanded the Histoire Universelle of Aubignè. Rouse went to him and read out the Statute against lending, and the King with a very good grace gave way.[9] The original order, countersigned by the Vice-Chancellor (“His Majestyes use is in command to us. S. Fell, Vice Can.”) is still preserved in the Library. The second siege of the city was followed by its capitulation on June 20, 1646, and “the first thing Generall Fairfax did was to set a good guard of soldiers to preserve the Bodleian Library.... Had he not taken this special care, that noble library had been utterly destroyed.” The register of books given out to readers shows a fair number of students, but Dr. John Allibond (Rustica Academiæ descriptio, 1648) records a different condition:

“Conscendo orbis illud Decus
Bodleio fundatore,
Sed intus erat nullum pecus
Excepto Janitore.
Neglectos vidi libros multos,
Quod minime mirandum,
Nam Bardos inter tot et stultos,
There’s few could understand ’em.”

Rouse was tactful enough to entertain Fairfax and Cromwell with a complimentary speech when the University gave them a banquet in the Library on May 19, 1649, and on the whole the Cromwellian visitation left the place alone, even when the learned Dr. Thomas Barlow[10] succeeded to Rouse’s place in April, 1652.

Various Gifts.

In 1659 the library of the “Learned Selden” arrived by bequest, after five years’ delay, and comprised about 360 MSS. with about eight thousand printed volumes, chiefly classics, theology and history; but among them are several unique early printed English tales and romances, such as Dan Hew of Leicestre, the Battayle of[26] Egyngecourt, the Mylner of Abyngton. The Latin MSS. not sent perished in a fire at the Temple, in London, in 1680. The arrangement of the new acquisition in what is now called the Selden End fell to Thomas Lockey,[11] who succeeded Barlow in September, 1660, but resigned in 1665, when Thomas Hyde[12] succeeded. In the next year came the first Sanskrit MS. (in “Gentoo,” now S.C. 2862), presented by an East India merchant.

The Adversaria of Isaac Casaubon (largely the notes of that great scholar on Greek writers) were bequeathed by his son and arrived in 1673, together with the invaluable papers of Roger Dodsworth, whose name deserved to be on the title-page of “Dugdale’s” Monasticon Anglicanum. Dodsworth copied enormous masses of Yorkshire and North of England deeds and pedigrees just before the Civil War, in which very many of the originals perished. Fairfax had helped Dodsworth with an annuity, and bequeathed Dodsworth’s and some other valuable MSS. to the Library which he had guarded from harm in 1646.

The Third Catalogue.

The third Catalogue of the Library, which came out in 1674, was a folio of imposing dimensions, and though the MSS. are no longer included, was probably the largest which had till then appeared anywhere. It was of such general utility in the learned world that, for instance, Convocation deemed it worthy of presentation to Cosmo de Medici, and an interleaved copy of it was the only one used in the Mazarine Library at Paris till as late as 1761. It took nine years to prepare, and is attributed to Dr. Hyde, the Librarian. The period which ended with Hyde’s resignation in 1701 wound up with a large accession of Old and Middle English MSS. which came partly by the purchase of 112 Hatton MSS. in 1671 (including the copy of the English translation of Gregory’s De cura pastorali made by Alfred, which the king presented to Worcester Cathedral, and also a translation of the same author’s Dialogi, with a preface by King Alfred), and partly by the extensive collections of Franciscus Junius (François Du Jon), a pioneer of Anglo-Saxon studies, which arrived (after purchase) in 1677. The chief treasures (the Cædmon and Ormulum) are described in Chapter V. The Oriental collections were also more than doubled by the purchase of the 420 Pococke MSS. in 1692 (chiefly Hebrew and Arabic), and of the six hundred Huntington[27] MSS. (of the same general character) in the next year. And probably these judicious and valuable purchases led to the bequest by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh of about seven hundred additional Oriental MSS. in 1713.

Dissolution of Parliament.

In 1681 a historic incident took place in what is now three of the Oriental Rooms of the Bodleian, but was then the Geometry School. The Parliament was held in Oxford on March 21-28 in that year, and King Charles II, having a secret promise of pecuniary aid from the French King, felt strong enough to do without consulting Parliament on a matter of the Protestant succession, and determined to put a sudden and dramatic end to the Session. The House of Lords was in the Geometry School, which stretches North from the great Tower, on the first floor. It had a broad staircase to itself. The House of Commons was summoned to the same School on Monday, March 28, to hear the King’s speech, about the subject of which nothing was known. To avoid confusion, the Commons were not allowed to use the broad staircase, but were hustled up a narrow winding stone staircase in the Tower itself, and when at the level of the first floor were precipitated into a room, and at last down five steps into the House of Lords. They arrived in a panting and dishevelled condition, only to hear a sudden and curt Royal Message, read by the King himself, announcing an immediate Dissolution of Parliament! The comedy then took a new turn, in which the King was protagonist. He bolted in great haste, scuttled across the quadrangle as fast as dignity and robes would allow, bundled into his coach, and was at Shotover, on the way to London, before the city in general became aware that the Parliament, which thought it had the King in its power from his want of supplies, was dissolved. The scene would have been broadly humorous, but for its sinister political significance.

The Old Catalogue of MSS.

The first century of the Library was worthily concluded with a useful and laborious Catalogue of all the known and accessible collections of MSS. in Great Britain, which is known as Bernard’s or the Old Catalogue, and is due to the labours of Dr. Edward Bernard, Professor of Astronomy at Oxford. It was published in 1697, and shows that Oxford (in the Bodleian and the Colleges) possessed more than half of the whole number. The printed books at this time may be estimated at about twenty-five thousand and the MSS. at about seven thousand. The century itself is cut deeply into two parts by the Civil War. Before it the Library prospered through its Founder and those who knew and remembered[28] him. After it a considerable number of small collections found their way by donation or bequest, chiefly (as has been noted above) from a feeling of the insecurity of private ownership; and some large purchases were made. On the whole the Library easily maintained its reputation as the largest and most valuable in the kingdom.

In 1696-7 the income was £341, and the expenditure £125, the chief items being £51 only to the three officers (Librarian, Under-Librarian, Janitor), £19 for establishment, £17 for the Curators’ dinner, £8 for binding and—six shillings for books! The last detail was a consequence of the money required in the next year for the purchase of the Bernard printed books. The average expenditure on books was about £30 a year.

The Eighteenth Century.

The eighteenth century in the Universities, and indeed in the country at large, is usually described as one of general torpor, with a low standard of taste, but brightened by many examples of conspicuous individual merit. This may be true, and the annals of the Oxford Press seem to bear it out. But it is true also that literature has much to say for itself during this period, and that one study at least was strongly developing itself—the study of English antiquities. The Bodleian itself may be said to have languished, in a sense, until about 1750, and then to have waked up, under the astonishing series of large gifts of which it was the recipient. In fact the hundred years from 1735 to 1835 may be called the Century of Great Donations.

When Dr. John Hudson[13] succeeded Hyde, and Hearne entered the Library as (Janitor and) Assistant, both in 1701, a good deal of activity was exhibited. In 1704 Dr. Charlett testified that “Our Public Library, which for some years had stood still, is now in a thriving condition by the active diligence and curiosity of Dr. Hudson, who spares no author, no bookseller, but solicits all to augment that vast treasure.” But in 1716, after bickerings on other grounds, Hearne was turned out of his place, as a Nonjuror, and Hudson became careless before his death, in 1719. Joseph Bowles[14], who succeeded Hudson, and died at the age of thirty-four in 1729, seems to have been unequal to the position he obtained, though our chief testimony comes from Hearne who cordially hated him. Robert Fysher,[15] the next Librarian, was not a[29] man of mark, and appears to have been disabled by ill-health from fully performing his duties.

The Printed Books.

The growth of the printed books had up to this point been much more normal than the acquisition of MSS. The only printed collections of any notable size since Robert Burton’s, in 1640, had been those of Selden (see p. 000), Marshall (1685) and Barlow (1693). The right to every published book no doubt gave an impression that little help was needed, especially when such was the lack of bibliographical principle that, for instance, the original first two editions of Shakespeare’s Plays (the First and Second Folios) were cleared out and sold as duplicates or “doubles,” when the Third Folio came out with seven additional plays. The First Folio thus turned out was bought back for £3000 in 1905 (see page 46). The tide began to turn towards the middle of the eighteenth century, partly perhaps from the example of the munificent gift of Bishop Moore’s books to the University Library, at Cambridge, made by George I in 1715, whereby besides 1790 MSS. nearly twenty-nine thousand printed books were acquired by it.

The Fourth Catalogue.

Dr. Thomas Tanner, Bishop of St. Asaph, formerly Archdeacon of Norfolk, died in 1735 and left to the Bodleian his collection, consisting of a large number of Civil War papers, Norwich collections and ecclesiastical, literary, and historical MSS., including the papers of Archbishop Sancroft. The printed books were also of value and extent. These all arrived in 1736, and the Library seems to have responded to this stimulus by issuing its fourth Catalogue in 1738, a careful edition in two folio volumes based on actual inspection of the books and not on former catalogues. Much of the work shows Hearne’s accurate hand.

Carte, Walker, Rawlinson, Clarendon MSS.

In 1747 Fysher died and Humphrey Owen[16] succeeded, who in his twenty-one years of office saw the Library doubled in size in the department of MSS. First came, in 1753, the MSS. of Thomas Carte, which arrived by gift (and subsequently bequest) from the collector. The seventeenth century Irish papers in this collection are of enormous extent (largely Ormonde papers from Kilkenny), and many volumes are materials for Carte’s History of England. Next came, in 1756, the whole of the papers on which John Walker based his Sufferings of the Clergy in 1640-60 (printed in 1714), comprising hundreds of autograph accounts of the lives of dispossessed ministers under the Commonwealth.


In this year arrived 5206 volumes of MSS., with a large printed collection, by the bequest of Dr. Richard Rawlinson, Bishop among the Nonjurors, who died in 1755. The extent of the gift entirely overwhelmed the Library staff, and it remained almost undescribed till 1862. Rawlinson picked up everything from everywhere, like Sir Thomas Phillipps, but while the ghost of the latter sees all that he lived for in process of dispersal, the Rawlinson collection is absolutely intact and worthily honoured. History and topography are the chief subjects, but Classics, English poetry, Service books, Oxford authors since Wood’s death, and the whole of Thomas Hearne, the Oxford antiquary’s papers, are among the rest. The Thurloe State Papers in sixty-seven volumes, Samuel Pepys’s Admiralty and other papers in twenty-eight volumes are here, and some most valuable ancient Irish MSS. worthy of a place by the side of Laud’s, with numerous volumes of literary correspondence, which in conjunction with the Ballard collection received in the same year (1756) contain perhaps one-half of the literary letters of 1660-1750.

In 1759 came the series of Clarendon State Papers, presented by the grand-daughters of the author of the History of the Rebellion, in fulfilment of their brother’s wish. They may be described as the bulk of the original Royalist sources for the history of the Civil War. Many additional parts of the Clarendon collections have been gathered to the rest in later years and from various sources. The original gift, by its condition that the profits of any Clarendon publication should belong to the University, has resulted, not only in the University Press being called by Clarendon’s name, but also in the building of the Clarendon Laboratory in 1869, and in the creation of that rare privilege, a perpetual copyright in the History of the Rebellion. It may be said that the history of the period 1640-1700 in Great Britain and Ireland cannot be written without reference to the Clarendon, Carte, Walker and Rawlinson collections.

The minor acquisitions of the rest of the eighteenth century (the Dawkins and Hunt Oriental MSS. in 1759 and 1774, the Browne Willis (Buckinghamshire, and English Cathedral) MSS. in 1760, and the Bridge’s Northamptonshire papers in 1795) were all by gift and bequest, and of the nineteen large collections received between 1700 and 1800 not one was purchased. When Dr. Owen died in 1768, Dr. John Price[17] succeeded. He had been Janitor from some time before 1757, and Sub-Librarian from 1761. His long reign ended in 1813, and his[31] successor, Dr. Bulkeley Bandinel, held the office still longer, dying in 1860 (see p. 34).

Catalogue of Oriental MSS.

A great effort was made from 1766 to 1787 to accomplish a catalogue of the Oriental MSS. which were a notable feature of the Library, thanks to the Laud, Marshall, Pococke, Huntington, Marsh and Hunt collections. The Catalogue of 1787, containing the Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Coptic MSS., was the work of Johann Uri, a Hungarian, who resided at Oxford for this purpose, and died there in 1796. The Arabic catalogue was continued by a second part undertaken by Alexander Nicoll and E. B. Pusey, and issued in 1835. Other parts have been continued by volumes in the Quarto series.

Modern Expansion.

In 1789 the first, modern extension of the Library began. How it managed to contain the accessions of the eighteenth century within the compass of the Old Reading Room, Arts End and Selden End, which it possessed in 1640, it is difficult to imagine; but no doubt much uncatalogued matter was stacked in the Picture Gallery and adjacent rooms. At last the pressure became so great that the books simply burst into the Anatomy School, thenceforward known as the Auctarium, on the first floor of the Schools Quadrangle. The gradual annexation of the whole of the Quadrangle, 1789-1882, is too much a matter of detail to be narrated here.[18] The whole of the first floor was annexed by 1835, and the loan of the Radcliffe Camera, in 1860, greatly eased the situation. The first ground floor-room acquired was the Logic School in 1845. The progress of bibliography can be traced in the large purchases made in 1789 at the Pinelli sale and in 1780 at the Crevenna sale, in Florence and Amsterdam respectively. The books bought were chiefly Editiones Principes and other early printed books, and £1550 was borrowed from the Colleges for the purpose, all faithfully repaid by 1795. The Mazarine Bible, a copy of which fetched £5800 in 1911, was bought for £100 in 1793.

The Nineteenth Century, and Dr. Bandinel. Gough and Douce.

The Wight Musical MSS., bequeathed in 1801, were the foundation of the musical collection, and were rich in English music between the Restoration and 1800. Not till 1885 was the old University collection, founded by Dr. William Heather in 1626, and kept in the Music School, transferred to the Bodleian. Four considerable classical collections of MSS. were purchased at this period, the D’Orville (1804), E. D. Clarke (1809), Canonici[32] (1817) and Meerman (1824). The Canonici MSS. were amassed by a Venetian Jesuit and abound in liturgical and Italian MSS. as well as in classics. They number 2047, and were purchased for £5444. These were accompanied by two very large mixed collections of MSS. and printed books, both bequeathed—the Gough British Topographical collection in 1809, and the Douce collection, in 1834. About 3700 volumes came in the former, including a vast series of topographical prints and maps. Among the latter are some large fragments of tapestry maps of England from the first English loom, established by Sheldon in Elizabeth’s reign. Richard Gough (d. 1809) had been for many years Director of the Society of Antiquaries, and possessed almost every book on British Topography. Francis Douce’s interests lay in illuminated and other MSS. and in English literature, and he bequeathed about five hundred of the former class and seventeen thousand printed books, with charters and coins. These two great gifts greatly enhanced the value of the Bodleian in their different kinds.

An incident on Saturday, April 19, 1806, occasioned a singularly apt quotation, and shows that modern smartness had not at that time penetrated the Bodleian. A would-be reader came that morning soon after 8 a.m., the hour of opening (8-2 and 3-5 were the hours enjoined since 1769), and found no one there, and the door still locked. Before departing he affixed a paper (still preserved) bearing the Greek of the following passage (Luke xi. 52), “Woe unto you, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves and them that were entering in ye hindered.”

Shakespeare and Malone.

The Shakespearean Folios and Quartos in the Library were comparatively few until the year 1821. The number of entries under the name were in the 1605 catalogue, 0; in 1620, 0; in 1635, 1; in 1674, 3; in 1738, 6. Fortunately the great and famous dramatic collections of Edmund Malone brought in the above year a complete set of the Folios and some fifty early Quartos or Poems, including the only copy of the first edition of Shakespeare’s first publication, the Venus and Adonis of 1593. Thanks to these and other accessions the Bodleian now possesses 70 out of the 101 Quartos issued before 1700, and more than five thousand volumes of Shakespearean literature.

Not till about 1818 was it recognized that a temperature of 25°-30° Fahrenheit was inimical to the comfort of readers, and not till 1821 were two pipes for introducing hot air inserted, and it is recorded that even this was “wholly ineffectual.” In 1845 steam warming was attempted, but that[33] too “did not give satisfaction.” In 1861 the hot-water system was introduced, which with various improvements is still in use.

Oriental MSS.

In view of the trend of Oxford studies in the past, it is not surprising that Classical MSS. and printed books, whether texts or commentaries, are a feature of the University library, and it probably contains in addition more academical dissertations than are to be found elsewhere. Each dissertation, it should be remembered, has its particular justification for the degree gained by it, however minute the point discussed may be.[19] The foundation of this department was laid in 1827 when about 43,400 foreign dissertations were purchased at Altona, and large additions were made in 1828, 1836-7 and 1846, as well as by systematic exchange in more recent years. In 1828 the Hebrew MSS., which had hitherto been inferior in value and number to the Arabic, received a great augmentation by the purchase en bloc of the Oppenheimer Collection of both manuscript and printed Hebrew literature. It is noticeable how large donations tend to produce further accessions in the same line. The Uri Catalogue of Oriental MSS. with its Second Part, noticed above, and the purchase of the Oppenheimer library seem to have called attention to this department, and from 1837 on a stream of minor donations and purchases set in. These were the Hodgson Sanskrit MSS. (1837), Wilson Sanskrit (1842, bought), Bruce Arabic and Ethiopic (1843, bought), Ouseley Persian (1844, bought), Walker (1847), Michael Hebrew (1848, bought), Mill Sanskrit (1849, bought), Elliott Persian (1859).

The Fifth and last Catalogue.

The period closes with the last of the printed Catalogues of the Printed Books. This was a great undertaking, but had its reward in being the largest presentation of printed literature which had ever been issued. It is contained in four folio volumes, issued between 1843 and 1851, the last recording the accessions of 1835-47. At the same time the Quarto Series of detailed Catalogues of Manuscripts was started (in 1845), which has now extended to some twenty volumes. The gaps left in this monumental series are filled up by the shorter but not inadequate descriptions of the Summary Catalogue in octavo form, which was instituted in 1890, and fulfils a useful purpose.



Bandinel and Coxe.

Dr. Bulkeley Bandinel[20] was the last of the old type of librarian, the gentlemanly old-fashioned scholar, to whom the Library was a pleasant preserve to which like-minded students were moderately welcome, if they knew what they wanted and did not give too much trouble to the officers. He assiduously bought the best books, used his personal influence to induce the University to make purchases of entire libraries, and cultivated the probable, and even the possible, benefactor with success. But administration in the modern sense, and the organization of a staff to provide for the wants of the general reader who needed to be allured to literature, were secondary aims.

The Reverend Henry Octavius Coxe,[21] who became Bodley’s Librarian in 1860, had had experience in the British Museum and had been sent by the Government in 1857 to report on, and if possible acquire, valuable MSS. (chiefly Greek) in the monasteries of the Levant. He was a trained librarian, with just the right addition, that is to say special excellence in some one line, in this case palæography. His work was to develop the Library in modern ways, not by a cataclysm but with delicate appreciation of what the past had done in its own way.

Changes in 1860.

Several events make the date 1860 a notable one, besides Mr. Coxe’s election. In that year the Radcliffe Trustees made the splendid offer of the loan of the Radcliffe Camera, the great domed building in the centre of Radcliffe Square, as a modern Reading Room and general augmentation of the Bodleian. It solved many difficulties in a most excellent way. It provided new storage room, it made it possible to have a properly fitted second Reading Room instead of inopportune alteration of “Duke Humphrey,” and it solved the problem of lengthening the[35] hours during which students could use the library. Artificial lights were then impossible in the Old Reading Room. In 1860 also came the valuable collections which formed the literary part of the Ashmolean Museum, including the extensive collections of Anthony Wood, the Oxford antiquary, the historical and heraldic MSS. of Ashmole himself, with the Lister, Dugdale and Aubrey papers, all relating to English history and biography. And in 1860 also was definitely begun a new general Catalogue of Printed Books on a modern system, the Catalogue in fact which is still in use. This took nineteen years to form, at a cost of £14,500, occupying (when completed in 1878) about 720 large folio volumes, now expanded to 1200. These great changes engaged the chief attention of the staff, and the next considerable event is the transfer of all the older records of the Archdeaconry of Oxford in 1878. This acquisition has resulted eventually in the Bodleian becoming the great repository of material for the local history of the three “home counties” of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, which form the Oxford diocese. In this year also was issued a Calendar of the Charters, Deeds and Rolls in the Library, chiefly the work of a self-educated student named William Henry Turner, formerly a chemist in the city. On July 8, 1881, Coxe died, having had twenty-one years to carry out his works of reform, and to introduce new principles of librarianship. In 1878 he was President of the first annual meeting of the new Library Association, held at Oxford, the transactions of which were published in the ensuing year and contain an interesting account of the Library.

Modern Expansion.

To Mr. Coxe succeeded in 1882 a librarian of a very different type, brought up in the newest school and one of the founders of the Library Association. Into every department of the Bodleian Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson[22] threw great energy and a super-active mind. Of the large ground-floor rooms of the Quadrangle no fewer than four were handed over in 1882 and afforded a great opportunity for a comprehensive scheme of rearrangement. The staff, which in 1882 were twenty-four, were gradually raised to more than seventy, partly by the introduction of boys (or “junior assistants”) for the fetching, distribution and replacement of books and for the simpler processes in dealing with new accessions. A fresh code of Cataloguing Rules was drawn up, and improved from time to time. A large Select[36] library (in addition to a Reference library) was instituted at the Camera. The number of closed week-days—which used to be twenty-six in the year—was much reduced. Accession lists were introduced. The Library was divided into ten sections, for each of which a Senior Assistant was made responsible. Photography, for the reproduction of MSS., was introduced in 1890. The Sheldonian Basement (1884), the Ashmolean Basement (1897) and the New Examination Schools Basement (1897) were obtained for the use of the Library. The number of readers increased, in response to all these arrangements for their convenience, and a large Upper Reading Room was obtained by annexing, in accordance with Sir Thomas Bodley’s original plan (see p. 21), part of the Picture Gallery (1907). The expenses of preparing and fitting up the room, and of shelving a large collection of periodicals in it for reference, were borne by the present Earl Brassey, who also provided funds for a Catalogue Revision Staff. But the greatest work undertaken in Mr. Nicholson’s term of office was the Underground Bookstore, a subterraneous cavern between the Bodleian Quadrangle and the Camera, beneath the grass, capable of holding a million books (see p. 39): the funds (£12000) were provided by the Oxford University Endowment Trustees. A notable feature of his time was the willingness of some Colleges and Institutions to deposit their MSS. on revocable loan in the Bodleian, to the great convenience of scholars. In this way the MSS. of University College, the Savile and Music School Libraries, the MSS. of Jesus College and those of the Clarendon Press came in 1882-86, followed by the Brasenose, Hertford, Lincoln and New College Collections. Among the greater accessions were the Shelley Collection (1893), and the 6330 Sanskrit MSS. presented by Sir Chandra Shum Shere, of Nepal (1909).

The War.

When Mr. Nicholson died, on March 17, 1912, the present writer[23] succeeded to his position. In 1913 a new Bodleian Statute (in English), based on the old Latin code but putting the Curators more clearly in their position of Governors of the Library, and otherwise designed to meet modern requirements, came into force. Two large and valuable donations were received in that year and in 1914, namely, 17,000 volumes of Chinese literature from Sir Edmund Backhouse, of Pekin, and Professor Ingram Bywater’s very choice library of about four thousand volumes on Aristotle and his commentators,[37] and of Humanist scholars up to about 1650. Then the War came, and checked many of the activities of the Bodleian. Forty-one members of the Staff were called away on military service of one kind or another, including all of the Regular Staff who were of military age,[24] for the Library made no claim for exemption. The more valuable MSS. and printed books had to be put away in safes protected by sand-bags, and were thereby withdrawn from use. On three occasions an alarm of air-raids brought many of the staff to the quadrangle between midnight and 3 a.m. The readers diminished by about one-third. On the other hand, no department was closed down, nor any change made in the public service, the gaps were filled by the capable assistance of ladies of the Catalogue Revision Staff and men in some way disabled from military work, and in 1916 it was found possible to hold a Shakespeare Tercentenary Exhibition with success. The British Museum was unable to undertake this at the time, and the Bodleian with every right stepped into the gap. A full account of this and of the whole history of the Library during the war will be found in the Bodleian Quarterly Record, which was started in April, 1914.

In June, 1919, Dr. Cowley[25] succeeded to the chair of office, and may be expected to carry on the Library through a successful era of change and progress which the arrival of peace has made possible.

The Bodleian at the Present Time

The position of the Bodleian Library among the great libraries of the world has been stated on p. 13. A general description may now be given of its buildings, organization and facilities accorded to students, at the present time.

A. Buildings and Reading Rooms

The Buildings may be conveniently divided into three parts: 1. The older part (“Bodley”); 2. The modern part[38] (the “Camera” and Underground Bookstore); 3. Certain outlying store rooms in University buildings.

The Old Reading Room.

The older part consists, as will be clear from a glance at the frontispiece, of an H-shaped building, and three sides of a Quadrangle fitted on to it. Readers who have followed the history outlined in preceding chapters will understand that the very cradle of the whole Library lies in the part marked on the plan “Old Reading Room.” That is Sir Thomas Bodley’s own first room, which had been superposed on the Divinity School in the latter part of the fifteenth century, finished in 1480, and taken over in a derelict condition by the Founder. No one can enter the room without a feeling of veneration for its antiquity and associations. The first extension (also in the Founder’s life-time) was the Arts End on the East, matched before the Civil War by the corresponding Selden End on the West. Since all three rooms were on the first-floor level, there is a space below, and a vaulted walk or ambulatory bears up the Arts End, while the Convocation House, built by the University, is under the Selden End. The contents of this triple room on the first floor are chiefly the printed books acquired before 1750, still divided according to the four Faculties—Theology, Medicine, Law and Arts. So firmly fixed are some of these that the present writer, having lost all trace in the General Catalogue of a book to be found under the word Parantinis in the 1605 Catalogue, in despair ordered it by its shelf mark in 1605 (8ᵒ L. 20 Th.), to see what would turn up, and it came. The fittings, ceiling and desks are hardly altered from what Sir Thomas Bodley ordained and saw. America as well as England may claim this heritage, for it presents the same appearance now as it presented years before the Pilgrim Fathers sailed in 1620.

The Bodleian Quadrangle.

The three sides of the School Quadrangle which adjoin the Arts End now contain the most valuable part of the Library. In the Gallery are the Upper Reading Room (with the General Catalogue and the selected periodicals) and the Picture Gallery (with a quarter of a mile of bibliography). On the first-floor on the South side are the chief manuscript collections; on the East side the Bywater, Douce and (north of the Tower) the Oriental MSS, and printed books; on the North side the Malone, Tanner, and Gough books, with all the Bibles. On the ground-floor are placed the Hope Collection of engraved portraits (about 300,000)—which is under separate trustees and is not really Bodleian property—the Music School (containing the printed and manuscript music and, at present, the Backhouse[39] Chinese collection), the Meerman room (with a number of smaller sets of books), the Law Room, the Foreign Periodical Room and the Map Room.

The Camera.

The Camera Reading Room holds comparatively few books, not being a store-room, but the volumes kept in it are the most-used modern works to the number of about 27,000. But the Camera Basement, and the Underground Bookstore which adjoins it, hold the great bulk of the books of the last forty years. These are arranged by an elaborate system of subject division, the more important sections being in the Basement, while the less-used subjects (Minor Theology, Minor Prose and Verse, Scientific handbooks now superseded for ordinary use, and the like) are kept in the Underground Bookstore, with gigantic series such as the earlier editions of the Ordnance Survey, the Times from 1806, the London Gazette and some others. But certain entire sections, though modern books, are still retained in the older part of the Bodleian (“Bodley”) as being specially related to the studies pursued there: such are Bibliography, Palæography, British topography, Family history and Numismatics.

Outlying Store Rooms.

Lastly, some outlying buildings have been lent as storerooms. Half of the Sheldonian Theatre Basement keeps the Parliamentary Blue Books, and such newspapers and journals as the Bodleian takes in. The Basement of the Old Ashmolean holds the “Year-books” (so called from the accessions between 1824 and 1850 being arranged, not by subject but in order of acquisition) and in general the octavo books received between 1824 and 1883. Finally, beneath the New Examination Schools are preserved directories, some old magazines and all novels.

In 1915 the numbers of volumes in these three main divisions were found to be:—

In “Bodley” 422,000
(Old Reading Room 61,000)
In the “Camera” and Underground Store 321,000
In outlying buildings 279,000
Total 1,022,000

B. Organization


The whole Library is subject ultimately to the authority of the Board of Curators, fifteen in number. Of these, eight are official (the Vice-Chancellor and two Proctors, and the five Regius Professors of Divinity, Civil Law, Medicine, Hebrew and Greek); and seven are chosen[40] for ten years by Congregation from its resident members. The Curators meet at least twice a term, and hold an Annual Visitation of the Library on November 8, the anniversary of the opening of the Bodleian in 1602. The income and expenditure and even the regulations of the Library are under their control.


The three officers are the responsible officials, and any one of them can take complete charge of the Library. They are the Librarian and the two Sub-Librarians; by custom one of the latter is an Oriental scholar. At the age of sixty-five they retire, unless specially retained for a few additional years. They may not hold a cure of souls, nor undertake outside work incompatible with the due discharge of their office. But the two Sub-Librarians are subordinate to the Librarian in all matters concerning their duties and work.


The Senior Assistants are at present thirteen in number. Ten of them are in charge of the ten Sections of the Library, and are responsible for its proper condition. One is the Librarian’s Secretary, one the Financial Assistant, two are Superintendents of the Upper Reading Room, and of the Camera, and one is in charge of the Stores. Their maximum (pre-war) salary is £250. There is also a class of Minor Assistants, who have less responsibility and less difficult work.

The Janitor at “Bodley” is on Sir Thomas Bodley’s original foundation, and has charge of the Picture Gallery, and the admission of visitors. There is now also a Janitor at the Camera.

The Junior Assistants (aged 14 to 19) undertake the supply and replacement of books, and such work as the preparation of lists, and especially hand lists, showing what books are added to the shelves, with other duties varying according to their powers. The Curators give annual prizes at Christmas to this class, for conduct, industry and intelligence.

Extra Staff.

The Extra Staff is apparently a class peculiar to the Bodleian, instituted by Nicholson. They are to a large extent former Junior Assistants, retained for a time on the Staff under conditions which allow them to carry on their own studies (as, for instance, for a University Degree). It is found that their experience of the Library in the past makes their services of special value, while on the other hand they are allowed to choose a normal scheme of hours and take what holidays they please, being paid by the hour (from 6d. to 2s.). They deal with arrears, or miscellaneous work, according to their special powers or the library requirements.[41] Some of the Extra Staff are usually specialists temporarily engaged, such as the members of the Catalogue Revision Staff. The entire normal staff consists of about seventy persons.

One of the customs of the Library now associated with the Annual Visitation is the Oratio Bodleiana, in Latin, delivered in the Congregation House on November 8 by a Master of Arts of Christ Church, on the set subject of Praise of Sir Thomas Bodley and of Hebrew Studies. It was founded in 1682 under the will of Dr. John Morris, Regius Professor of Hebrew, who died in 1648. The Orator is selected by the Dean of Christ Church, and delivers the Oration before the Curators of the Library. For the last fifty years the speeches have been preserved, and are of some value as contemporary annals.

C. Facilities for Readers

Admission. Days and Hours, etc.

Anyone desirous of becoming a reader is required to bring a personal recommendation signed by some one in a responsible position. A printed form is supplied for the purpose. On admission he signs a statutory promise of good conduct in matters relating to the Library, and can choose a seat in any of the three reading-rooms. Preferably he will use the older books and manuscripts in the Old Reading Room, and modern books in the other two. The two parts of the Bodleian are only closed together on six weekdays in the year (Good Friday, Easter Eve, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the two following week days), and are otherwise open, with a few exceptions for cleaning purposes, from 9 a.m. to 3, 4 or 5 p.m., according to the season. The Camera is similarly open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Readers who use printed books have only to order them from the General Catalogue, or, if reference books, take them down from the shelves. For manuscripts there are three indexes which cover the whole ground: that of the Old Catalogue of 1697 (soon to be superseded by the other two); that of the Quarto Catalogues, combined; and that of the Summary Catalogue. The Oriental MSS. have in general their own indexes. Ordinary books can be reserved at the seat: manuscripts and valuable printed books are given up each day, and kept for re-issue. Free access to the shelves is not possible in so large a library, but arrangements are made to suit reasonable requirements: the Reference books are numerous, and the Subject Catalogue and lists of Accessions are provided. A Manual for Readers, giving further detail, can be obtained on application, without payment, as well as the Rules for Cataloguing and lists of the numerous collections, both manuscript and printed.



The Catalogues of Manuscripts are numerous, but consist chiefly (for western languages) of three parts: 1. The Old Catalogue of 1697, described on p. 27, which has its own index; 2. The Quarto Series of detailed Catalogues,[26] each with its index, but also indexed in one long alphabet of combined slips available for general use; 3. The Summary Catalogue filling up gaps in the other two classes, with a similar slip index. The whole ground is covered in more or less detail by these three.

All the Printed Books are in the General Catalogue of printed books, one copy of which is in Bodley, and one at the Camera. This is an Author Catalogue of the usual kind, anonymous books being entered under their title, and official books under the institution which issues them. A third copy of the Catalogue is arranged by subjects, but is at present kept in loose bundles of slips. The Cataloguing Rules are separately printed, as noted above.

D. Finance

The normal income is about £11,000 (Dividends, rents, etc. £2800: University allowances £5100; internal income £250; From Colleges £2000; Oxford University Endowment Fund, and various donors £850). The expenditure may be placed at £10,800 (Staff £6700; Establishment £1250; Purchases £2000; Binding £700; Miscellaneous £150). The large expenditure on the Staff compared with the purchases is due to the great number of books received under the Copyright Act. In 1841 a bequest of £36,000 was received under the Will of the Rev. Robert Mason, of Queen’s College. The resources of the Library are however obviously inadequate, although the University bears the cost of the upkeep of the fabric and permanent fittings. Details for 1882-1918 will be found summarized in the Bodleian Quarterly Record, No. 21, or in detail in the published Annual Reports. During the years 1908-1916, the Library has received more than £25,000 from the O. U. Endowment Fund, expended chiefly on the New Reading Room and Underground Book-store.

Manuscripts and printed books are not lent out except under a Special Decree of Convocation in each case, and was finally decided on May 31, 1887, in accordance with the principles of the Founder and the traditions both of the Bodleian and the British Museum (see pp. 10, 11, 20, 25).



Attractions of the Bodleian.

The antiquity, the historical associations, and the treasures of the Library combine to give it a peculiar fascination. Founded in the “spacious times of great Elizabeth,” and even then carrying on the traditions of the University library first mentioned in 1320; exhibiting a normal evolution in fabric and contents, without great catastrophes or change of place; and as the receptacle of so many and such great collections that it might be called the National Library for the first century and a half of its development, its very walls are vocal with multitudinous memories, much more its shelves and volumes and accessories. Who can walk down the Old Reading Room, with its quiet alcoves, each with its own window looking out on the Sheldonian Theatre or, if so be, the quiet lawn of Exeter College Garden; or note the old-fashioned fittings, adapted for the mediæval system of chaining books, and still comfortable, though not too luxurious; or enjoy the spaciousness of the Selden End, with its outlook on St. Mary’s and its restful gloom, without feeling that he has found an earthly paradise, a true home of study, a Temple of the Religio Grammatici? And when the volumes are found to match the surroundings, and to be such as rank high in the esteem of the whole world, whether as historical monuments, or for beauty of illustration, or as affording ample ground for study and research, great is the content of mind which they engender.

The present chapter is designed partly to illustrate these points, and also to be a guide to some of the most prominent treasures of this great repository. It will, in the first place, describe a few of the curiosities of association which cluster round certain volumes, and then settle down to what is by comparison a mere list of valuable books, whether written or printed. Neither part should be taken as in any way exhaustive.

Examples of Association.

Sayings of our Lord.

The Excavations at Oxyrhynchus (120 miles south of Cairo) produced in 1897 large quantities of Greek papyri, but perhaps the most interesting of all was a dirty, tattered and torn piece about 6 × 4 inches, such as one would throw into the waste paper basket.[44] Yet it contains the ΛΟΓΙΑ ΙΗΣΟΥ, Sayings of Our Lord, as transmitted by oral tradition till they were written down, possibly within the first century. The fragment is quite independent of our Four Gospels, and here alone are found such sayings as “Wherever there is one alone, I say, I am with him,” “Raise the stone, and thou shalt find Me; cleave the wood, and there am I.” Perhaps there never was a greater contrast between external appearance and intrinsic worth, for the genuineness of the sayings is contested by few. A second leaf from another MS. of the same kind was subsequently discovered and is now in the British Museum.

A Schoolboy’s Letter.

At Oxyrhynchus was found also a school-boy’s letter to his father, an example of the immutability of basal human nature. It is in Greek, on papyrus, written in the second or third century of our era. This is part of it: “Theon to his father Theon greeting. It was a fine thing of you not to take me with you to town.... Mother said to Archelaüs ‘He upsets me: take him away.’ So send for me, I implore you. If you won’t send, I won’t eat, I won’t drink: there now.” The appeal to what his mother said about him to a house-friend, was a master stroke, the boy thought, but the effect may have been diminished in his father’s eyes by the undoubted fact that the grammar and spelling of the letter leave a good deal to be desired. That completes the picture. But we may be pretty sure that no tragedy followed the missive. Having done his best to bring his father into the right path the youthful Theon undoubtedly sat down to a good dinner and calmly awaited the course of events. A chilling interval no doubt followed, and a prosaic reply that Theon had better keep his temper and not upset his mother. Little did Theon think that his boyish letter would, after seventeen hundred years, become an interesting treasure in a great library.


The earliest personal name in the long range of English Literature is Cædmon, the herdman of Whitby, in the seventh century. The only ancient MS. of Cædmon’s metrical paraphrase of parts of the Old Testament is the Junius MS. in the Bodleian, written in England about the year 1000, and illustrated by a native pre-Conquest artist. The question of how much of the MS. is Cædmon’s own composition cannot be here dealt with, but part corresponds closely with a prose version written in the eighth century and contained in a Cambridge MS. of Bede, and the Genesis part of the present MS. is known to be of Northumbrian origin. Much of the interest lies in the pen-and-ink drawings which illustrate the Genesis. For instance, the ark[45] is represented by a set of boxes erected on the deck of the largest vessel which the artist had ever seen, namely a Scandinavian war-galley with its turned up fore- and sternposts and its side steering. Out of the boxes peer the animals and birds, while the steersman has an aspect of lofty detachment which should do credit to an artist of the present day. There is no pseudo-archaism in the illustrations, but an invaluable record of buildings, costumes and life in England, half a century before the Conquest.

Bede’s Acts of the Apostles.

The chief ancient Biblical MS. possessed by the Library is a Græco-Latin uncial Acts, probably written in the sixth century, given by Archbishop Laud and known as Codex E of the Acts. The Latin closely follows the Greek text, and is not the Vulgate version. In the seventh century the MS. was in Sardinia, and much interest attaches to it from the fact that the Venerable Bede (d. 735) used it, and probably owned it; for about seventy readings which are stated to occur in his Retractatio in Actus are all found, and often solely, in this codex. It also has affinities with the great Cambridge MS., the Codex Bezæ, a manuscript which has in the last few years established some claim to represent the oldest tradition of the text.

Saint Margaret’s Gospel-book.

A small volume in brown calf binding was sold at Sotheby’s on July 26, 1887, described as “Evangelia iv. ... Manuscript on vellum ... illuminated in gold and colours ... saec. xiv,” and was bought for a very moderate sum by the Bodleian. It turned out to be a Gospel-book (containing the portions of the Gospels which occur in the Mass) written in England about A.D. 1000, and bearing four full-page miniatures of the Evangelists with other illumination. On the second leaf is a Latin poem of the eleventh century, telling a strange tale, that a miracle had been worked on this volume. It had been taken to a trysting-place in order that by its sanctity it might bind the parties to an agreement, but on its way dropped unnoticed into a river out of the folds of the priest’s dress who was carrying it. When its absence was noted, the party slowly retraced its steps, and at last saw it in the river. A soldier plunged in head first and rescued it, and it was found to be miraculously unhurt “except two leaves which you see at each end, in which from the water some crinkling is apparent.” The poem specially records that the silken sheets which protected the illuminations were washed out of the book by the stream, and ends “May the King and noble Queen find everlasting salvation, whose book was recently saved from the waves.” The clue to this was found in the Life of[46] St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, whose chapel is still a venerated shrine in Edinburgh Castle. She was a sister of Edgar Ætheling, fled to the North, and in 1070 married Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland. Her mild and civilizing influence on the Scottish Court and country till her death in 1093 led to canonization in 1251. The Life of her, probably by her confessor Turgot, contains the whole story in similar terms in prose, and establishes beyond a doubt that this volume was her especial treasure and constant companion. She must often have used it both in Dunfermline Abbey, which she founded, and in her chapel in the Castle at Edinburgh. Even the “crinkling” mentioned is still visible, but as to the miracle, the clear water of a Scotch stream would do little harm even to an illuminated volume. It is, however, an undoubted relic, valuable alike for its liturgical contents, its romantic history and its associations.

The Turbutt Shakespeare.

A worn and tattered copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1623), plainly bound in contemporary calf, was brought up to the Library on January 23, 1905, from a Mr. Turbutt’s library at Ogston Hall, Derbyshire, for advice about repairs to the binding. Fortunately Mr. Strickland Gibson, a Senior Assistant, who studies Oxford bindings, had not neglected, as so many do, the poorer and mediocre covers, such as the one described; and he soon recognized on it the peculiarities of Oxford binders, and was able after a little investigation to establish the fact that the long-lost original First Folio, sent in sheets from the publisher in 1623 under Sir Thomas Bodley’s Agreement (see p. 20), had revisited its old home in the guise of a dubious stranger, but wearing still its ancient coat, much out at elbows. The identification is complete, and there is no doubt that the book had been sold after the Restoration as superseded. The special interest of the volume is two-fold—first, it is the only copy which went straight from the publisher to a public institution, and is therefore in some respects the only standard copy in existence; secondly, that the wear and tear of the book when it was chained in Bodley as S. 2.17 Art. (which can be proved to have been occasioned in the Library, and not at a later period) indicates, as nothing else can, which plays were most to the taste of the Bachelors of Arts before the Civil War. An estimate has been made from the comparative deterioration of each leaf, and the result is the following list of preferences: Romeo and Juliet; Julius Cæsar; The Tempest. Next: Henry IV, part i; Macbeth and Cymbeline equal. The Tragedies were most read, and the Histories least; the Comedies being intermediate.


Milton and Rouse.

John Rouse, who steered the Bodleian through the stormy waters of the Civil War, was a personal friend of Milton, and wrote to him to complain that no copy of his (Milton’s) Poems, London, 1645, was to be found in the Library. Milton sent a copy, and inserted in it a long Latin poem “ad Joannem Rousium ... de libro poematum ... Ode Joannis Miltonij.” Milton at this time was only Cromwell’s Latin Secretary, so the book was allowed to go up in the ordinary course, as 8ᵒ M. 168 Art., to one of the Galleries of the Arts End. After about a hundred and fifty years, it was rediscovered as a valuable autograph of the great poet, and is now exhibited in the glass cases.

The smallest MS.

The smallest MS. in the Library measures three-quarters of an inch square and about a quarter inch in thickness, and very appropriately contains shorthand writing. It was so likely to be lost that Mr. Coxe chained it to a piece of wood eighteen inches long. Knowledge of its history and contents was completely lost until in 1912 a visitor saw it, and made a suggestion which was found to be true, that it was a sermon written by Jeremiah Rich “the Semigrapher,” in his peculiar stenography, and referred to in a broadside of about 1664 as “now shown in the Publick Library in Oxford.” Rich claimed that he could write so small that his pen could scarcely be seen to move.

Clarendon’s Council Notes.

Imagine the Council Chamber of King Charles II, the King himself at one end, Lord Clarendon the Historian of the Rebellion at the other, and the Lords of the Council ranged along the sides: date 1660-1665. The King often desired to obtain the immediate opinion of Clarendon on matters which came before the Council, whether it was a question of arrangements for Parliament, or the dismissal of an officer of state, or the hanging of some traitors; and his custom was to send a slip of paper to his Chancellor with his own query at the top, and room for the reply. These papers flew backwards and forwards between the two, and, as filled in, they may be regarded as the most personal and intimate State Papers which exist. They should have been at once destroyed, but Clarendon kept them, and they are now preserved in the Bodleian. Many are of the highest interest, as revealing the undisguised opinions and feelings of the King. Here is one of less intrinsic importance, Clarendon’s contributions being in italic:—

“I would willingly make a visite to my sister at Tunbridge for a night, or two at furthest, when do you thinke I can best spare that time?


I know no reason why you may not for such a tyme (2 nights) go the next weeke, about Wensday or Thursday, and returne tyme enough for the adjournement: which yet ought to be the weeke followinge. [Then, added as an after thought] I suppose you will go with a light Trayne [i.e. you will not take the whole court with you, surely?].

I intend to take nothing but my night bag.

Yes, you will not go without 40 or 50 horse.

I counte that part of my night bag.”

It may be added that the King is greatly superior to his Minister, both in handwriting and spelling. The date is December, 1660.

The Sutherland Collection.

The Rev. James Granger (d. 1776) published a History of England in 1769 on the theory that a series of biographies best brings out the historical features of each successive generation. The work obviously lent itself to illustration by engraved portraits, and now any books enriched by its owner with additional inserted illustrations is said to be “grangerized.” The most magnificent example of this not wholly commendable practice is to be found in the Sutherland Collection presented to the Bodleian in 1837. Mr. Alexander Sutherland took a folio edition of Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion, the Life of Clarendon, and Burnet’s History of My Own Times, inlaid each leaf and illustrated them with not less than 20,000 portraits and views of persons and places which are mentioned, even incidentally, in the histories. The result is contained in sixty-one elephant folio volumes. The quality of the engravings is of the finest, and when an engraving was lacking, a copy in colours of some original picture took its place. For instance, the portraits of Charles I number 743, of Cromwell 373, of Charles II 552; the views of London 309 and of Westminster 166. Mrs. Sutherland completed this sumptuous work after her husband’s death, and printed a complete catalogue of the whole. Among the topographical prints is the original drawing by Antonio van der Wyngaerde, of London, in about 1560, which is the earliest detailed view of that city. The Library also contains the only copies of the earliest (engraved) views of Oxford (by Agas, 1578) and of Cambridge (by Hamond, 1592).

These are ten specimens of the associations and stories which gather round the volumes of the Bodleian, but space does not allow this section to be extended.


(In order of acquisition)


A. Manuscripts

Out of the 200 collections of Manuscripts only the more valuable are mentioned, and of their contents only the most striking volumes. In the latter division the numeral in brackets is the number of the volume in the Old Catalogue of 1697 (1-8716), or in the Summary Catalogue (1-8716 and 8717-36587). The use of the Roman numerals which here follow (i-x) will enable a reader to recognize the general character of each collection.

The following subjects are characterized for brevity by members as below:—

i. Bibles and Liturgies.
ii. Theology and Church History.
iii. Greek Literature.
iv. Latin Literature.
v. English Language and Literature.
vi. British History.
vii. British Topography.
viii. Colonial and Foreign Literature, History and Geography.
ix. Sciences and Arts.
x. Miscellaneous (used only when the miscellaneous element is large).

The following statistics of early Greek and Latin MSS. in the Bodleian, excluding papyri, deeds and fragments, may be interesting. Lists of the volumes, with titles, will be found in the Bodleian Quarterly Record, Nos. 3, 7, 11, 12 (see p. 64).

Cent. Greek Latin
6th-7th 2 7
8th 1 8
9th 12 54
10th 21 63
11th 115 130
12th 87 552

The oldest complete MS. in the Library is a Chinese scroll, written by Wang Hsi Chih about A.D. 400. The oldest printed book is also Chinese, the voluminous Spring and Autumn Annals of Confucius, printed about A.D. 1150. Both were in the Backhouse donations of 1914.

Seventeenth Century

1. Exeter Cathedral (1602; 86 vols.; i, ii).

Persius, 11th cent. (2455); Prudentius, 11th cent. (2666); Leofric Missal, 10th cent. (2675); Latin Gospels written in Brittany, 10th cent. (2719).

2. Windsor (1612; 67 vols.; ii).

3. Twyne (1612; 20 vols.; ix).

4. Savile (1620; 61 vols.; iii, etc.).


5. Barocci (1629; 244 vols.; i, ii, iii).

Canons of the Church, 11th cent. (26); Grammarians, 11th cent. (50); Chronicon John Malalæ, 12th cent. (182); Epistolæ Photii, 10th cent. (217); early MSS. of the Fathers; all in Greek.

6. Roe (1629; 28 vols.; iii).

Catena in Epistolas Pauli, in Greek, 10th cent. (262).

7. Digby (1634-9; 238 vols.; v, vi, ix, x).

Chanson de Roland, 12th cent. (1624), the earliest MS. of the first French Roman de geste; the Abingdon Missal, 15th cent., illuminated (1828).

8. Laud (1635-40; abt. 1230 vols.; i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, x).

Canons of Councils, Greek, 11th cent. (715b); Irish poems, 13th cent. (784); Sidonius Apollinaris, 10th cent. (838); Ælfric’s Heptateuch, 11th cent. (942); Gregory’s Cura Pastoralis, 9th cent. (1000); the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, to A.D. 1154 (1003); Egbert’s Penitential, in Old English, 11th cent. (1054); Codex E of the Acts, Græco-Latin, 7th cent. (1119), see p. 45; The “Psalter” of Cashel, in Irish, 12th cent. (1132); Lives of Saints, in English, 14th cent. (1486); Quintus Curtius, 15th cent., with illuminations (1526); Augustine de Trinitate, 8th cent. (1556); Martianus Capella, 11th cent. (1597).

9. Cromwell (1654; 24 vols.; iii).

10. Selden (1659; 351 vols.; ii, iii, iv, vi, x).

Mexican records, the Mendoza Codex, 16th cent. (3134); English Carols, with music, 15th cent. (3340); The King’s Quair, etc., 15th cent. (3354); Latin pieces in the hand of William of Malmesbury, 12th cent. (3362); The Acts, in Latin uncials written in England, 8th cent. (3418).

11. Casaubon (1671; 61 vols.; iii, etc.).

12. Hatton (1671; 112 vols.; v, etc.).

King Alfred’s translation of Gregory’s Pastoral Care, 9th cent. (4113); Rule of St. Benedict, in Latin, 7th cent. (4118); Collectis Canonum Hibernensium, 9th cent. (4119); Anglo-Saxon homilies, 11th cent. (5210, 5134-6).

13. Fairfax and Dodsworth (1673; 114 vols.; v, vi, vii).

14. Junius (1678; 121 vols.; v).

The Ormulum, the original MS. of the first English religious poem after the Conquest, abt. 1315 (5113); Cædmon, see p. 44 (5123).

15. Marshall (1685; 159 vols.; x.).

16. Barlow (1691; 54 vols.; i, ii, vi, etc.).

17. Pococke (1692; 420 vols.; x, Arabic, etc.).

Edrisi’s Geography in Arabic, with maps (5737).

18. Huntington (1693; 646 vols.; x, Arabic, etc.).

Arabic descr. of Egypt, 14th cent. (5749); autograph signature of Moses Maimonides (5757); Coptic Gospels, 12th cent. (5860); a Tartar Bakhtiar Nameh (MS. Hunt, 596).


19. Bernard (1698; 171 vols.; iii, iv, x. etc.).

Vendôme chronicle, 11th to 14th cent. (8537, cf. 14715); Maximianus, 12th cent. (8849).

Miscellaneous MSS.—Seventeenth Century.

Early Latin treatises written in Cornwall, 9th-10th cent. (2026); Early Latin treatises written in Brittany and Wales, 9th-11th cent., owned by Dunstan (2176); Old English Gospels, 11th cent. (2382); Romance of Alexander, and Marco Polo’s Travels, in French, with notable illuminations, 14th-15th cent. (2464); Sir Thomas Bodley’s Letters to his first Librarian, 17th cent. (2541); The Tropary of Ethelred, in Latin, 10th cent. (2558); Cornish plays, 15th cent. (2639, cf. 10714); Latin Gospels, Codex O, 7th cent., once called St. Augustine’s (2698); Pliny’s Epistolæ, 15th cent., a relic of Duke Humphrey’s library at Oxford (2934); Bible History in Latin, Gen.-Job, with fine miniatures, xiii (2937); Latin Psalter, 13th cent., with illuminations and binding (3055); Hours of Qu. Mary, 15th cent. (3083); the original MS. of much of Wycliffe’s English Bible, 14th cent. (3093); Latin Acts of Councils, 7th cent. (3686-8); Edrisi’s Geography in Arabic, with 33 maps (3837); a “vast massy” volume of Middle English Verse, 14th cent., known as the Vernon MS. (3938); The MacRegol Gospels, in Latin, with Old English Version, abt. A.D. 800 (3946); the original MS. of John Leland’s Collectanea and Itinerary (5102-5112*, after 6615); Anglo-Saxon Canons, 10th cent. (5232); Terence, 12th cent., with classical drawings (27603).

Eighteenth Century

20. Jones (1708; 61 vols.; vi).

21. Marsh (1714; 744 vols.; x, Oriental).

22. Tanner (1736; 627 vols.; ii, v). See p. 29.

English historical papers, 1570-1699 (9841-9906, 10288-90).

23. Carte (1753, etc.; 278; vi). See p. 29.

Original earliest existing journal of the Irish Parliament, 1585-6 (10507); original letter-book of the confederate Catholics at Kilkenny, 1642-5 (10510).

24. St. Amand (1755; 62 vols.; iii, iv).

25. Ballard (1756; 72 vols.; vi).

26. John Walker (1756; 25 vols.; ii, vi). See p. 29.

27. Rawlinson (1756; 5206 vols.; i., ii, iii, iv, v, vi, vii, viii, ix, x). See p. 30.

Thurloe State Papers, 1638-60 (10884-10950); Pepys’ Papers, abt. 1650-90 (11054-11121); Parish notes for Oxfordshire, abt. 1720 (11740-4); old Irish MSS., annals, cartularies and poetry (between 11822 and 11861); Prudentius, abt. A.D. 1000 (12541); perhaps “The earliest English musical composition,” abt. 1220 (14755); Avianus, 11th cent. (14836); Latin Gospels of St. Luke and St. John, 8th[52] cent. (14890); royal letters to Qu. Elizabeth (14976); Oxford University Bedel’s book, 16th cent. (15411); Prayers for the use of Wladislaw, King of Poland, abt. 1434 (15857); Holman’s Essex MSS. (15988-16018).

28. Clarendon (1759, etc.; 145 vols.; vi). See p. 30.

Letters of Charles I and Henrietta Maria (16183-4, cf. 15003, 16177, 30253); Council notes of Charles I and Clarendon, 1660-2 (16186-7; see p. 47).

29. Dawkins (1759; 60 vols.?; x, Syriac).

30. Willis (1760; 110 vols.; vii).

31. Hunt (1774; abt. 200 vols.; x, Oriental).

32. Bradley (1776, etc.; 51 vols.; ix).

33. Holmes (1789, etc.; 163 vols.; i, iii).

34. Bridge (1795; 52 vols.; vii, Northants).

Miscellaneous MSS.—Eighteenth Century.

Ussher’s Collectanea (27610-7); Register of Committee for plundered ministers, 1645-53 (27619-26); Bale’s Carmelitana (27635); Portraits of Rajahs (27697); Furney’s Gloucestershire Collections (27825-30); autograph poems by James I (27843-44).

Nineteenth Century, and After

35. Wight (1801; 209 vols.; ix, Music).

36. D’Orville (1804; 618 vols.; iii, iv, etc.).

Moissac psalter, 11th cent. (16923); Horace, 11th cent. (17036); papers on the Greek Anthology (17112-143, 17150-168), and on Theocritus (17144-149, 17169-76); Euclid in Greek, A.D. 888 (17179).

37. Gough (1809; 866 vols.; i, vi, vii). See p. 32.

Large Map of Great Britain, 14th cent. (17610); Dr. Charles Mason’s Cambridge Collections (17755-88); Hutchison’s Collections for Dorset (17867-902, cf. 25532-3); Pegge’s Lincolnshire Collections (18003-9); Blomefield’s Norfolk Collections (18056-69); Peter le Neve’s do. (18085-91); Bowen’s Shropshire Collections (18189-207); Beckwith’s Yorkshire Collections (18269-80); the Gaignières Drawings of French Monuments, abt. A.D. 1700 (18346-61).

38. E. D. Clarke (1809; 91 vols.; iii, iv, x).

St. Gregory Nazianzen’s poems, 10th cent. (18374); Dialogues of Plato, written A.D. 896 (18400).

39. Canonici (1817; 2047 vols.; i, ii, iii, iv, viii, x).

Greek Evangeliaria, 9th cent. (18538, 18545); Catullus, 14th cent. (18611); Juvenal, 11th cent., with a genuine passage found in no other MS. (18622); Virgil, 10th cent. (18631); the Ranshoven Latin Gospels, A.D. 1178 (18953); Dalmatian Liturgy, in Latin, 11th cent. (19379); Rabanus Maurus de Computo, 9th cent. (19829); Notitia Dignitatum, with illuminations in old Roman style (19854); Boccaccio’s[53] Philocopo, 15th cent., illuminated (20137); Pirro Ligorio’s drawings of Rome, 16th cent. (20190); old Slavonic service books (20639-41).

40. Saibante (1820; 52 vols.; iii).

Arrian’s Discourses of Epictetus, in Greek, 12th cent., the archetype of all existing MSS. (20531).

41. Malone (1821; 30 vols.; v).

42. Meerman (1824; 59 vols.; iii, iv).

Physiologus, 10th cent. (20618); Donatus, 9th cent. (20624); Livy, bks. i-x, abt. A.D. 1000 (20631); Jerome’s Chronicle of Eusebius, in Latin, 6th cent. (20632); Macrobius, abt. A.D. 1000 (21637).

43. Boreal (1828; 153 vols.; viii, Icelandic).

44. Oppenheimer (1829; 780 vols.; x, Hebrew).

45. Douce (1834; 497 vols.; i, v, ix, Illumination). See p. 32.

Hours, with fine miniatures (Gonzaga, 21603; Sforza, 21614; Medici, 21616; Maximilian, 21793-4); a Codex purpureus of the Psalter, 9th cent. (21633); Primasius, on the Apocalypse, 8th cent. (21714); Gospel lections in Latin, 10th cent., with carved ivory binding (21750); Apocalypse in Latin, with fine illuminations, 13th cent. (21754); Latin Gospels, 11th cent., with carved ivory binding (21866); the Ormesby Psalter, 14th cent. (21941); Miracles de la Vierge, 15th cent. miniatures (21949); Map of the Holy Land, abt. 1400 (21964).

46. Blakeway (1840; 26 vols.; vii, Shropshire).

47. Wilson (1842; 546 vols.; x, Sanskrit).

48. Bruce (1843; 96 vols.; x, Arabic, Ethiopic).

Book of Enoch (22731); Gnostic treatise in Coptic (22753).

49. Milles (1843; 21 vols.; vii, Devon).

50. Ouseley (1844, 1858; 590 vols.; x, Persian).

Persian illuminations (24643-50, etc.).

51. A. Walker (1845; 215 vols.; x, Oriental).

52. Michael (1841, 1850; 690 vols.; x, Hebrew).

53. Mill (1849, 1858; 195 vols.; x, Sanskrit, etc.)

54. Elliott (1859; 387 vols.; x, Persian).

55. Ashmole, Wood, Lister, Dugdale, Aubrey (1860; 128 vols.; vi, vii Oxford, ix).

These collections contain more valuable material relating to Oxford history than can be detailed. Lichfield Chapter records (MS. Ashm. 794, etc.). Order of the Garter (MSS. Ashm. 1097-1135, etc.); Bestiarium, 12th cent. (MS. Ashm. 1511); Reliquiæ Lhuydianæ, 17th-18th cent. (25184-93, 25198, 25202-3); Letters to Anthony Wood, 17th cent. (25213-9).

56. Tamil (1860; 103 vols.; x, Tamil).

57. Montagu (1864; 62 vols.; iv, v, etc.).

Autograph Letters (25426-50).

58. W. N. Clarke (1868; 18 vols., vii, Berks).


59. Oxford Diocesan Papers (1878, 1914, 1916; abt. 1000 vols. or boxes; ii, vii, etc.) See p. 35.

60. Savile (1884; 147 vols.; ix.).

61. Music School (1885; 778 vols.; ix, Music).

62. Hultzsch (1887; 437 vols.; x, Sanskrit).

63. Shelley (1893; 12 vols.; v, Shelley).

64. Hallam (1896; 149 vols.; v, dialects).

65. Chandra (1909; 6330 pieces; x, Sanskrit).

66. Backhouse (1913; x, Chinese).

Miscellaneous MSS., from 1801 (i-x).

Watson’s Cheshire and Lancashire Collections (25562-78); Herculanean Papyri (28047-60); Greek N.T., the Codex Ebnerianus (28118); Sheldon papers, English history, 1585-1724 (28181-87, cf. 28473); Oxford Siege papers, 1643-6 (28189); Yriarte Spanish MSS. (28360-85); Burnet MSS. (28386-95); Aubrey’s Monumenta Britannica (28426-27); Gower’s Cheshire Collections (28483-87, cf. 30704); Cornish Plays (28556-57); Greek Gospels, Codex Α, 9th cent. (28643); Genesis in Greek, 9th cent. (28644); Greek Gospels, 10th cent., Codex Γ (28645); Reader’s Coventry Collections (28854-8); a supposed Shakespeare signature (28902); Turner’s Oxfordshire Collections (29019-46); Poems by Chatterton, xviii (29126); Welsh pedigrees (29205-7); Jones’ Devonshire Collections (29462-69); Barret’s Sacred Warr, 17th cent., the longest poem in the world (29573); Ford’s Suffolk Collections (29670-79); Mark Pattison Papers; Gospel book of St. Margaret of Scotland, 11th cent. (29744, see p. 45); Parts of Iliad 2, 2nd cent. (29896); Oxford Barbers’ Company Records (31110-27); Ecclesiasticus in Hebrew (32358); the Bower Sanskrit MS., 5th cent. (32602); The Logia (32901, see p. 43); a unique York Gradual (32940); The Bakhshale and Weber Sanskrit MSS. (33178-79); the Brett Nonjuror papers (MSS. Eng. 00th. c. 24-43); nearly 4000 inscribed Ostraca, in 1914.

Miscellaneous MSS. (various dates of acquisition).

Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, in French, etc., 14th cent. (30142); Goliardica, 13th cent. (30151); Ciceroniana (30350-419); Registers of the Court of the Marches of Wales, 16th cent. (30435, cf. 33088); Warren Hastings (30463-78).

In Greek: Psalter, etc., ix (1982); Xenophon’s Cyropædia, xii (2936); Manuel Phile, with miniatures, xvi (3078); Scholia on the Odyssey, xi (28347); Miniatures of Saints, xiv (2919).

B. Printed Books

The separate printed works in the Library, which are contained in about 160 collections, amount to over two million, and cannot possibly be shortly described. They are all in the General Catalogue of printed books, of which two copies are available for the use of readers.


It has to be remembered that since 1610 (see p. 20) the Library has had a right to a copy of every book published in the United Kingdom, and receives about 300 literary items (books, pamphlets, sheets of music, etc.) a day. But every foreign book and periodical has to be purchased, and though much has been done, the foreign literature is not fully adequate. All that can be accomplished is to provide, in this department, a large and useful working library. It is in English Literature, in Theology and in Classics that the Bodleian can be justly called firstrate.

The number of Incunabula is about 5600,[27] of which the Caxtons are sixty. Space only allows in this place a mention of such out of the collections of printed books as have a distinctive character and are still kept together, with a few other notes.

Ashmole (English antiquities, heraldry, astrology).


Douce (English literature).

Georgian (Georgian language and literature: the Wardrop Collection).

Gough (British topography).

Hope (old periodicals).

Linc. (i.e. Bp. Barlow’s books, seventeenth century).

Malone (English dramatic literature, including a large set of folios and quartos of Shakespeare’s works).

Nichols Newspapers (1672-1737, bound in one long chronological order).

Pamphlets (with a long English series in chronological order). Oxford 15th cent. press.

Parliamentary Bluebooks.

Rawlinson (miscellaneous seventeenth and eighteenth century literature).

Selden (British history).

Tanner (English literature).

Tractatus Lutherani (the Reformation in Germany).

Among rarities other than Incunabula may be mentioned as specimens:—

Nine blockbooks.

The only copy of the first edition of Shakespeare’s first publication, 1593 (see p. 32).

Two collections of early sixteenth century English romances, all rare, some unique (S. Selden, d. 45 and 4ᵒ L. 71 Art.)


The original Bodleian First Folio of Shakespeare, 1623 (see p. 46).

The only copy of the Bay Psalm-book (1640) outside the United States, which possess nine copies only.

Lord Kingsborough’s Antiquities of Mexico, on vellum, 1831-48, 7 atlas folio volumes.

Pictures and Coins

During the seventeenth century the Bodleian became, very naturally, the depository of other things than books. It was an eminently safe place for the deposit of both artistic and numismatical collections, as well as for curiosities of every kind. The Ashmolean Museum, opened in 1683, was the first public museum in Great Britain, and was full of similar objects intended to promote the study of natural history, anthropology (as we now call it) and science; and from about 1750 it diverted to itself the streams of donation in those kinds. But throughout the eighteenth century pictures and coins flowed into the Bodleian, where the ample Picture Gallery, provided by the forethought of the Founder, was able to house them all. The coin collection began with a large gift from Archbishop Laud in 1636, and Freke, Rawlinson, Brown Willis, Ingram and many others augmented it, till it has now reached about 60,000 pieces, and is ready for transference to its proper place, the New Ashmolean. The pictures also which were primarily of artistic value have been within the last thirty years for the most part transferred to the New Ashmolean, and the ceremonial ones (Chancellors in their robes, royal personages and the like) are in the New Examination Schools, leaving still a large number which are of historical, literary or Bodleian interest to adorn the Picture Gallery. All are described fully in Mrs. Poole’s Catalogue of Portraits in Oxford, vol. i (1912).



Man lives in the present, for the future, but emphatically by the past. He cannot possibly understand what he sees (whether in politics, theology, literature or science), without realizing how it came to be. If he attempts to avoid this necessary study of the past, or affects to despise it, he is beaten in the race of life by those who are wiser than himself. Every characteristic of a living person or nation, the stock of ideas and ideals by which they live, their very habits and daily life, all have roots deep in the past. If this truth is grasped—and it is not less true because it can be clearly and shortly stated—libraries are seen at once to be a necessary adjunct to all education and all civilization. Carlyle saw this when he wrote with characteristic exaggeration that the Modern University is a Library of Books.

But, as is pointed out at p. 10 above, there are libraries and libraries. However valuable elementary and circulating and private libraries may be (and they are the necessary lower rungs of the ladder of progress), it is for the great Libraries of Deposit that the educated student reserves his time, his energies and his admiration. The certainty of finding all, or nearly all, the authorities on his subject, and of finding them at hand, is his delight. If he further discovers a large store of manuscripts from which new information may be drawn, or old texts improved, his pleasure amounts to enthusiasm.

The Bodleian, it is submitted, satisfies these conditions of contentment, and is, and always will be, both for British and foreign students of theology, history, literature or science, a potent element in post-graduate education at Oxford. That it is not fully used, is true; and that it needs much more help before it can exercise its proper functions, is also true. But it has been greatly aided and stimulated by three centuries of goodwill, energy and benefaction; and it does what it can, both in giving free access to all who are properly recommended to it, and in providing catalogues and indexes for their use; it is only the lack of adequate endowment which prevents it from greatly increasing its utility and influence.

There are several departments of study in which the Library[58] is able to furnish ample manuscript materials for original research. Among them may be mentioned especially Theology, Classics, English history and English literature, the local history of the British Isles (especially of Oxford and its neighbourhood), and Oriental literature (especially Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic and Chinese). To these may be added Music, old Irish literature and Liturgies without exhausting the list of specialities. The printed collections are rich in English books of all dates (especially Bibles and Theology), in Classics, Historical books of reference, and old literature of various kinds.

Much has been written lately about the pitfalls which await the historical researcher, whether he attempts to interpret the documents of a past age or to enter into its ideas. This is not the place for an enumeration of these difficulties, but they are well summarized (with a short bibliography) in C. G. Crump’s Logic of History (Helps for Students of History, No. 6: 1919; price 8d.). Classical students are at no loss for guides,[28] and it is open to all others simply to take a book or edition of repute, and study its methods, the enumeration of MSS., the grouping of them, and the principles of text-construction and criticism. But at every step they need a large library, and the Bodleian combines the advantages usually only found in a great city with the amenity and surroundings of a country town.

Even in this short manual it may be of practical use to give two actual examples of historical method, applied in one case to prehistoric remains in and the other to elucidation of old and vague chronicles. They are given in the belief that an ounce of practice is worth a hundred-weight of precept.

1. Stonehenge

What is the date, approximately, when Stonehenge was erected? The data are that it lies in a part of Salisbury Plain which is dotted with a large number of barrows, early and late in date. How can the building, the stones and the ground be made to give up evidence as to date?

In 1889 Sir Arthur Evans investigated the question in a paper in the Archæological Review for January in that year.

1. Many of the barrows, two of which are in obvious connection with the great stones, are shown by their forms and contents to be of the largest type of Bronze Age barrows, known as Round Barrows (for instance, gold relics, glass[59] beads, ivory and cremated remains are signs of lateness). This being so, it is significant that chippings of the stones brought from a distance to Stonehenge are found even in undisturbed barrows of this kind, where the action of earthworms and rabbits in introducing foreign elements is hardly possible. It is clear, therefore, that the building of Stonehenge was at least begun late in that period. There is the point also that with the exception of two, the circumjacent barrows are not in any relation with the great circle, and are therefore not later.

2. The contents of the barrows earlier than Stonehenge have some imported articles which must have come from the continent not before the fifth century B.C. One even is stated to have contained a socketed celt, pointing to the late fourth century. But late Celtic antiquities are wholly absent, which makes it hardly possible that the barrows should be as late as the second century B.C.

3. The skilful hewing and fitting of the huge blocks of Wiltshire Sarsen stone are of the same stage in technical development as the triliths of Syria and Tripoli, and the great Doric temple of Segesta in Sicily, which latter was constructed about 415 B.C.

From these and similar indications he concludes that the gradual building of the great monument was probably between 300 and 150 B.C. He is now inclined to place the date earlier.

In 1901 a small committee of the Society of Antiquaries and two other societies reported on the desirability of setting upright a very large leaning stone at Stonehenge, which showed signs of breaking up as well as of falling still further down. It was successfully raised in September of that year, and it is from the necessary excavations—which were very carefully and scientifically conducted—that various data were collected by Mr. William Gowland, and printed in Archæologia, vol. 58 (1902).

No object of metal was found, except one small trace of bronze or copper. From this circumstance he concludes that Stonehenge was constructed at the time when the Neolithic Age was passing into the Bronze Age, and that has been tentatively placed at about 1400 B.C., or not later. Sir Norman Lockyer, he mentions, had recently attempted to determine the date on the hypothesis that the monument was a solar temple, since, as is well known, the midsummer sun rises exactly in the line of the chief avenue from the temple, and exactly over a large detached stone placed no doubt for this very purpose. He deduced a date as early as 1700 B.C.

It is disappointing to observe the discrepancy between these[60] results. But it is particularly instructive, and a salutary warning to all who attempt scientific enquiries into historical problems, to note that both results are based on sound method. Good method, in short, is not sufficient: the data must also be adequate, and where indeterminate they must, as in this case, be approached, tested and used with the greatest caution. For instance, the absence of bronze tools is not conclusive evidence that the Bronze Age had not begun, and therefore that Stonehenge was earlier than about B.C. 1500, for the stone implements found were sufficient for their work and much more easily obtained than bronze tools. Moreover, the stone implements are stated not to be of the characteristic late Stone Age types, and may therefore have been improvised.

2. The Loss of King John’s Treasures in the Wash, A.D. 1216

Everyone has read how King John in his last days lost all his baggage train in the waves of the Wash (the great bay or inlet which separates Lincolnshire from Norfolk), and is supposed hardly to have saved his own life. The ordinary histories go on to say that he died soon after of chagrin at the disaster, and that Henry III was crowned in a gold circlet because the Crown had been lost with the rest of John’s treasure. The old chroniclers are vague and avoid detail, and it is the kind of story which lends itself to exaggeration. It seems to have struck Sir William St. John Hope that it might be worth while to investigate closely the exact circumstances, and to consider what was lost, and where. Such a quest might indicate possibilities even of the recovery of the treasure, if the spot could be ascertained, and the brilliant results of his application of scientific method have more than justified his attempt, and afford a really interesting example for imitation.

1. First, the chroniclers’ accounts were noted and compared. Roger of Wendover, Matthew Paris and the Coggeshall chronicler state in varying terms that the King and his army barely escaped, and that the baggage which followed was lost in whirlpools or quicksands in the “Well stream,” which disembogues into the sea through the Wash. These are original authorities, and Sir William observes that the first-named was at the time Prior of Belvoir in Leicestershire, about forty miles only from the scene, and that the priory was of the same (Cistercian) order as that of Swineshead, where the King lodged on the night after the catastrophe, and where he fell ill.

2. The route followed by the King himself can fortunately[61] be absolutely ascertained from the fact that every day he made grants which are registered among the Patent and Close Rolls, and each is marked as made at a certain place. We at once learn, therefore, that the King, who had swept much of Norfolk clear of its gold and silver treasures in revenge for the revolt of the Barons, left King’s Lynn on October 11, 1216, for Wisbeach, went thus round the head of the great indentation of the Wash, and journeyed thence on the fateful 12th to Swineshead, in Lincolnshire, where he ordered his baggage to join him by a direct route northward from King’s Lynn across the Wash at low tide. All this is ascertained fact, and we learn already that the King himself was never in danger, but only his baggage train, and its guard and the attendant forces.

3. There is no question of the great changes in the coast line during the last seven hundred years. Whereas the sea used to cover what is now flat and fruitful meadow land, almost as far as Wisbeach, the water is now kept out by the silt it has deposited and by embankments. The accounts of later writers on the disaster, Camden, Brady and local antiquaries, mention the old lines of embankment and with this help they can still be traced. Thus emerges the important fact that there was a definite ford of no great width straight across the Wash and across the Well stream, now called the Welland; the route to the ford is marked by a road and a line of old churches and villages.

4. Next, military historians were asked to estimate the probable amount of baggage and the numbers and composition of the train and its guard. It was estimated that the whole cavalcade would be something like three miles long, not capable of moving more than 2½ miles an hour at best, the crossing being not less than 4½ miles, from Cross Keys northward to Long Sutton, and the channels, where the long and narrow ford encounters its chief difficulty, not far from Long Sutton.

5. On the great day, October 12, 1216, what were the tides? An official of the Nautical Almanac Office specially worked out the problem, with the result: Low water about noon, high water about 6 p.m., the sunset being at 5.15 p.m. It was a spring-tide, favourable for crossing, as so much of the route would be uncovered at low water, but it is clear that the available time for crossing the long ford and the mid-stream of the Welland would not be more than from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.—barely time enough, even if all went well.

The position is now clear. Probably the whole train crossed the Lynn stream (the Ouse) from King’s Lynn the day before, and camped as near their supplies at Lynn as possible, in fact[62] just across the river. In the fogs and mists of October, the train would hardly start on the 12th till about 8, and would reach Cross Keys a little before noon. For so unwieldly a cavalcade that was too late. When the Welland was reached the tide would be in full flow, and when the long train of baggage wagons, men, soldiers, mules and horses, excitedly endeavoured to turn back all would be in confusion. They were like the Egyptians in the Red Sea. As none escaped, the whole train must have been on the sands; the ghastly scene of turmoil and death in the quicksands and swiftly rising waters must be left to the imagination; no circumstance of horror was absent. The King probably watched the scene from the northern bank, and saw the hideous tumult and disorder, and the struggles for life.

6. But the treasure fell into soft, shifting quicksands, silt and mud. To what depth? Sir William approached the Great Northern Railway Company, who built in 1887 a new swing-bridge over the river near the spot, and found that probably at 23 feet, certainly at 32 feet, the slowly sinking gold, silver and jewels would be stopped. The composition of every foot of depth, whether silt, clay or sand is known.

7. The fact that the Welland stream, now 240 feet across and 27 feet deep, had in old days no one definite channel, but roamed divided over the wide delta, with much less force and depth than now, completes the enquiry. No part of the treasure would be carried out to sea, but all would sink slowly down to its present place.

A trench cut in those meadows from East to West on the line of the old ford would encounter mules’ bones and human bones, which could be thence tracked with certainty both North and South. On that line will certainly be found, uninjured and secure, Edward the Confessor’s Crown, all the other contents of the King’s movable Chapel and his other portable treasures, with countless pieces of plate and relics and jewels from the rich abbeys and churches of Norfolk.

Such is an outline of a successful application of method to the vague accounts of a great disaster.

In conclusion, some specimens may be given of various kinds of material which await, so far as the writer knows, investigation. Some may turn out to be used or printed, some not to deserve printing, but they may at least lead on intending researchers to adopt the only satisfactory plan, which is to read through the Catalogues of the manuscript collections, and find what suits their tastes and capabilities. The field of Oxford history is so plentiful and so untilled that it can be found by any one without trouble, and it is therefore here[63] passed over. Any one inspired to cultivate it will find a wealth of material, both antiquarian, topical and literary. The following jottings are divided under a few general headings, but are otherwise in no order and could be indefinitely extended. The Bodleian statute requires that the leave of the Librarian or Curators be obtained before any manuscript is copied with a view to publication. The purpose is, not to stifle research, but to eliminate incompetent or conflicting editors.


Register of Lands about Agen, in Gascony, Latin, 13th cent. (2933).

Chronicle of England to 1221, Latin, 14th cent. (2444).

Fountains Abbey records (1892, etc.).

Rich. II and London, a Latin poem, A.D. 1393 (3631).

Military expenses of Henry VIII (30300).

Pococke’s Tour in Ireland, 1758 (30722).

Letterbook of a Parliamentarian officer (Bradshaw) 1648-60 (25573).

Triple picture of the battle of Pinkie, 1547 (30492).

Civil War Scouts’ reports (33552).

Gulielmus Gemeticensis, Historia Normannorum, abt. A.D. 1100 (2580).

Latin Chronicle of the First Crusade and England, 1095-1118 (2402).

Letters to Bp. Burnet (30175).


Latin Dialogue between Magister and Discipulus on the Latin tongue, 11th cent. (2737).

“The Chaunce of the Dyse” (dice), etc., Middle English verse, 15th cent. (2078).

Middle English treatise of a son instructing his mother abt. 1400 (2315).

The history of Greek Studies in Europe (Hody), late 17th cent. (8887-90, 8901-3, etc.).

Middle English verse (3440, 29003, 30314, etc.).


Hearne’s autograph autobiography (15603).

Pointer on clog-almanacks, 18th cent. (13478).

Aubrey on English architecture, A.D. 1671 (28427).

Letters from China, A.D. 1701 (27874).

Laws, etc., of the Swanimote, A.D. 1587 (30273).

Malone correspondence, A.D. 1767-1811 (28578).



The chief books on the Bodleian Library are:—

Macray, W. D., Annals of the Bodleian, 2nd edition, 1890 (the standard work on its history to 1880). 25s.

Reliquiæ Bodleianæ ... containing his Life ... and a Collection of Letters to Dr. James, etc. (edited by Thomas Hearne, London, 1703). Unfortunately the letters, being not fully dated, are in almost haphazard order.

Nicholson, E. W. B., the Bodleian Library in 1882-7, a Report, 1888, and thereafter Annual Reports issued as parts of the Oxford University Gazette.

Pietas Oxoniensis, 1902 (chiefly written by E. W. B. Nicholson; not sold), contains a Life of Bodley, Account of the early Library, full list of the Catalogues, and the like.

Clark, Andrew, A Bodleian Guide for Visitors, 1906. 1s. 6d.

Gibson, S., Some Oxford Libraries, 1914. 2s. 6d.

The Bodleian Quarterly Record from 1914: issued quarterly at 6d. This contains a statistical survey of the Library (No. 9), Annals 1880-1919 (Nos. 15, 19, 20, 21), Lists of Early MSS., Essays on the early Catalogues, etc., etc.

A Manual for Readers, contains information for readers on admission, Lists of the Bodleian Catalogues, etc. the Rules for Cataloguing and Lists of the Manuscripts and Printed Collections, and of their Catalogues, can be obtained on application.


[1] The classical Latin titles for “Librarian” found in inscriptions are:—Procurator bibliothecarum (perhaps a wider term than Librarian), Magister a bibliotheca, Bibliothecarius (used by Marcus Aurelius). Librarius was a minor library official: Librarius a manu, a secretary in the library.

[2] His arms were:—Quarterly, 1st and 4th argent five martlets in saltire, with a crescent gules for difference, on a chief azure three ducal crowns or (for Bodley), 2nd and 3rd argent, two bars wavy between three hone-stones sable two and one (for Hone). Motto, Quarta perennis (a reference to the three crowns, which were taken from the University Arms, presumably in 1604, when Bodley was knighted).

[3] Bibliotheca Bodleiana is found in 1605: Bodleiana in 1654; Bodley’s Library in 1666; Bodleian Library in 1695; Bodley in 1706; Bodleian in 1749. The term “Bodley” is now some times used for the old part of the Library, as compared with the “Camera.”

[4] New College: matr., 1592; Fellow; D.D., 1614; died, 1629; Librarian, 1602-1620.

[5] The Letters are well worth republishing, with notes, for Hearne’s edition in 1703 (Reliquiæ Bodleianæ) exhibit them in a hopelessly haphazard order, devoid of all chronological sequence.

[6] Bodley, however, reserved a life interest in this endowment, and the only independent income of the Librarian and Sub-Librarian as such was 8d. payable to the former and 4d. to the latter from every newly admitted reader—a provision made in the Statutes of 1610.

[7] This grant was hastily made, but actually passed under the Privy Seal, though its execution was for intelligible reasons stopped.

[8] John Rouse or Russe, matr. from Balliol 1596, Fellow of Oriel, 1600-52, M.A., 1604: Librarian, 1620-52.

[9] Exactly the same incident occurred with the Protector, Cromwell, when a MS. was ordered by him. Barlow induced him also to forgo his wish. This was in April, 1654, the year in which Cromwell presented twenty-four MSS.

[10] Thomas Barlow, matr. from Queen’s, 1625; Fellow, 1633-57; Provost, 1657-75; D.D., 1660; Bp. of Lincoln, 1675-91; Librarian, 1652-60.

[11] Thomas Lockey, matr. from Ch. Ch., 1621; D.D., 1660; d. 1679; Librarian, 1660-65.

[12] Thomas Hyde, matr. from Queen’s, 1654; D.D., 1682; Prof. of Arabic, 1691-7; Prof. of Hebrew, 1697-1703; d. 1703; Librarian, 1665-1701.

[13] John Hudson, matr. from Queen’s, 1677; Fellow of Univ. Coll., 1686-1711; D.D., 1701; Principal of St. Mary Hall, 1712-19; Librarian, 1701-19.

[14] Joseph Bowles, matr. from Hart Hall, 1713; then of St. Mary Hall; Fellow of Oriel; d. 1729; Librarian, 1719-29.

[15] Robert Fysher, matr. from Ch. Ch., 1715; M.A., 1724; Fellow of Oriel, 1726-47; Librarian, 1729-47.

[16] Humphrey Owen, matr. from Jesus, 1718; D.D., 1763; Principal of Jesus, 1763-68; d. 1768; Librarian, 1747-68.

[17] John Price, matr. from Jesus, 1754; M.A., 1760; d. 1813; Librarian, 1768-1813. Jesus College men ruled the Library from 1747 to 1813.

[18] It is told in the Bodleian Quarterly Record, vol. ii, No. 15 (1917), with plans.

[19] The writer cannot forget an occasion when Professor Henry Nettleship was about to write a paper for the Oxford Philological Society on the Alapa Manumissionis. When looking up some references in the General Catalogue he suddenly lighted on a title “De Alapa Manumissionis.” On ordering it, he found a dissertation of a youthful German student of the eighteenth century, who provided many references known to the Professor, and added more.

[20] Bulkeley Bandinel, matr. from New College, 1800; D.D., 1823; d. 1861; Librarian, 1813-60.

[21] Henry Octavius Coxe, matr. from Worcester, 1829; M.A., 1836; d. 1881. Sub-Librarian, 1838-60; Librarian, 1860-81.

[22] Edward Williams Byron Nicholson, matr. from Trinity; M.A.; d. 1912; Librarian, 1882-1912.

[23] Falconer Madan, matr. from Brasenose, 1870; M.A., 1877; Fellow, 1876-80 and 1889-1902; Hon. Fellow from 1912. Sub-Librarian, 1880-1912; Librarian, 1912-19.

[24] Two members fell in action, R. A. Abrams, M.A., a Senior Assistant, and H. G. Dunn, a member of the Extra Staff, both lieutenants.

[25] Arthur Ernest Cowley, matr. from Trinity, 1879; D.Litt., 1908; Fellow of Magdalen from 1902. Assistant Sub-Librarian, 1896-9; Sub-Librarian, 1900-19; Librarian from 1919.

[26] Full details of all the Catalogues are in the Manual for Readers, mentioned above.

[27] All these are enumerated in R. G. C. Proctor’s Index to the Early Printed Books in the British Museum, 1898-1900. The Caxtons are fully described in De Ricci’s Census of Caxtons, 19.

[28] The latest works on the subject are Professor A. C. Clark’s Descent of MSS. (1919) and (with a wider scope) F. W. Hall’s Companion to Classical Texts (1913).