The Bodleian Library was founded in 1602 at the University of Oxford. It is one of the oldest libraries in Britain, the first library to request a 'copyright' edition of every book published in English and its original, beautiful seventeenth-century rooms are still in use today. Spanning over four hundred years, this succinct account, illustrated with historical prints, portraits of formidable librarians and photographs of some of the Library's most treasured items, traces the development of the Bodleian's superb collections and historic buildings from its foundation by Sir Thomas Bodley to the celebration of the quatercentenary of its opening. Each chapter reveals fascinating details about the lives and eccentricities of the people who have shaped the development of the Library, including Bodley's vision that it would serve the 'republic of the learned', Charles I's request to borrow a book, the story of how the Library came to have t one, but two editions of Shakespeare's First Folio and the fiasco surrounding King George VI's opening of the New Bodleian in 1946. In addition, this book chronicles the perennial search for more space, including the use of underground passages, as the number of books continued to grow, totalling over 11 million by the twenty-first century. It shows how the physical expansion of the Library, from the acquisition of the Radcliffe Camera to the building of individual subject libraries across Oxford, is part of the story of how the Library came to be the world-rewned institution it is today.
Mary Clapinson was Keeper of Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian from 1986 to 2002 and is an Emeritus Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford.