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Story Behind Bodleian Library’s Construction

Holding the continuous history that dates back to 1602, Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and second biggest library in Britain. The small collection of books donated by Thomas Cobham (Bishop of Worcester) between 1317 and 1327 was situated in a room above the old congregation house at the University church of St. Mary the Virgin and today it still exists as meeting room for the church. The university commissary stated library as the property of Oxford University around 1337 and books moved back to St. Mary’s.

Bodleian Library’s

The collection was moved to the Divinity School when Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester (brother of Henry V) donated great collection of manuscript between 1435 and 1437 because the room was not large enough. The suitable room that was known as “the Duke Humfrey’s Library” was completed around 1489 more than 40 years after Humfrey’s dealth.

The middle sixteenth century, university was in financial crises and at the late of century library goes through period of decline. Much of the collection had been dispersed and only three of the Duke Humfrey’s original books remain. It was Sir Thomas Bodley (scholar, traveler and former fellow of Merton College) who offer a number of his own books to refurbish it and make it fettle. The library restocked with books at the expense of Bodley and other supporter was reopened on 8 November 1602 under the name of “Bodleian Library” officially termed as Bodley’s Library.

Bodleian Library’s

In 1610, Bodley enters into an agreement with the Stationer’s company to send a copy of every book registered with them in the library. The Bodleian collection expands rapidly and extension to library was needed. The first that was known as Arts End was built over Divinity School between 1610 –1612. After the death of John Selden in 1654 that left Bodleian eight thousand volumes of books and the large collection of manuscripts, the old building was extended and known as “the Selden End”. Bodley’s last project, the old Schools Quadrangle was completed between 1613 and 1619 after his death in 1612.

The new Bodleian Library was constructed when Rockefeller foundation gave large donation while further expansion was needed in 1939. Designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the construction was completed in 1940.

Films where Bodleian Library Featured

Inspector Morse

Bodleian Library featured in several episodes of the Inspector Morse “The Dead of Jericho” and “The Settling of the Sun”.


The episodes of “Whom the Gods Would Destroy” when Lewis and Hathaway seek out professor Gold in Seymour College Library and ask about Greely’s notes were filmed in Duke Humfrey’s Library and Bodleian Library.

Harry Potter

Locations of Bodleian Library were filmed in various parts of Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). The Oxford Divinity School was used as the infirmary and Duke Humfrey’s Library as Hogwarts library.

The Bodleian Library most popularly known as “the Bod” by Oxford University students has many treasures such as the chair of Sir Francis Drake, Magna Carta and Sir Thomas Bodley’s Chest. The whole history of Bodleian Library can be discovered with Oxford Tourism.

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