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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > June 2016 > Britain’s Treasures…

Britain’s Treasures…

Nestled into the streets of Oxford is one of Europe’s oldest libraries, where millions of books are housed in some of the city’s most beautiful buildings


Sir Tomas Bodley, a fellow of Oxford University’s Merton College and a prominent figure in the court of Elizabeth I, wanted to do something meaningful with his retirement. Seeing that the library in the heart of his beloved Oxford had fallen into decline during the 16th century – with only three books of the original collection remaining – he decided to invest in its restoration. “I could not busy myself to better purpose,” he later claimed, “than by reducing that place (which then in every part lay ruined and waste) to the public use of students.”

Te Bodleian Library was therefore opened on 8 November 1602, boasting a 2,500-strong book-and-manuscript collection, some provided by Bodley himself. Since then, the library has never stopped growing and currently holds over 12 million publications (only the British Library can boast more in Britain). Its numerous buildings help define the Oxford panorama, as well as offering those walking through the city a glimpse of a hallowed past.

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The June 2016 issue of History Revealed