Bodleian Library, Oxford

Founded in 1602 and regarded as a masterpiece of English Gothic architecture, the Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe and today serves as the main research library of the University of Oxford.

The Bodleian Library was originally "Bodley's Library" and has been known informally to centuries of Oxford scholars as "the Bod."


History of Bodleian Library

Oxford's Bodleian Library opened in 1602 with a collection of 2,000 books assembled by Thomas Bodley of Merton College. The new library replaced one that had been donated to the Divinity School by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester (brother of Henry V of England), but had dispersed in the 16th century.

In 1610, Bodley made an agreement with the Stationers' Company in London to put a copy of every book registered with them in the library. The Bodleian collection grew so fast that the first expansion of the building was required in 1610–1612, and another in 1634–1637. When John Selden died in 1654, he left the Bodleian his large collection of books and manuscripts.

In 1911 the United Kingdom Copyright Act continued the Stationers' agreement by making the Bodleian one of the five "copyright libraries" in the United Kingdom, where a copy of each book copyrighted in the country must be deposited.

Two floors of bookstack opened beneath the Radcliffe Camera and Radcliffe Square in 1913, and a large new bookstack and reading room, the New Bodleian building, was built in the 1930s. A tunnel under Broad Street connects the Old and New Bodleians, and contains a pedestrian walkway, a mechanical book conveyor and a pneumatic Lamson tube system for book orders.

The Oxford Digital Library (ODL) provides online access to the collections. The Bodleian Library has also offered its support to the establishment of the JournalServer open-access digital library and allocated resources on the Oxford Digital Library Servers. The Oxford Digital Library started operationally in July 2001 and has a rich collection of digital archives.

In 2004, Oxford made an agreement allowing Google to digitize 1 million books owned by the Bodleian Library.

What to See at Bodleian Library

The main "Old Bodleian" building contains upper and lower reading rooms, the gift shop, and the Divinity School. Visitors are not allowed into the reading rooms except on guided tours, which usually occur daily.

Today, the Bodleian includes several off-site storage areas as well as nine other libraries in Oxford, including the Bodleian Japanese Library, the Bodleian Law Library, and the Radcliffe Science Library. Altogether, the sites now contain 9 million items on 176 km of shelving, and have seats for 2,500 readers.

To be granted access to the Bodleian Library, one must submit a formal application and sign to the following declaration:

The Bodleian Library's religious interest lies in its impressive collection of biblical and religious manuscripts. Unfortunately, these are generally not accessible to visitors. Notable manuscripts at Bodleian include:

Quick Facts on Bodleian Library

Site Information
Names:Bodleian Library · Bodley's Library · The Bod
Categories:libraries; academic buildings
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:51.754121° N, 1.254598° W
Address:Broad Street
Oxford, England
Hours:Interior by guided tour only:
Mon-Fri: 10:30, 11:30, 2, 3; Sat 10:30 & 11:30
Lodging:View hotels near Bodleian Library
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Personal visits (2005-07; 2010).
  2. Bodleian Library - official website (esp. Early Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library)

More Information

Radcliffe Camera, with the main buildings of the Bodleian Library behind. © Holly Hayes
In the courtyard of the Bodleian Library. © Holly Hayes
Entrance to the old School of Grammar and History. © Holly Hayes
Antique books in the Duke Humphrey Library. © Holly Hayes
The Divinity School. © Holly Hayes
Main entrance to the Bodleian Library. © Holly Hayes
The Upper Reading Room in the Bodleian Library. © Holly Hayes

Map of Bodleian Library, Oxford

Below is a location map and aerial view of Bodleian Library. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.