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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bodleian Library

The Bodlein Library is located in Oxford, just a short train ride away from London. Our class traveled there yesterday and it was a beautiful day! The first settlement in the area was around the year 700. Oxford is located almost in the middle of England, making it easy to get to from all areas. Originally, monks began schools in the area, educating young boys before sending them off to the University of Paris (the closest University at the time).

As most of us are familiar with, the two countries of England and France have not always been the best of friends. Eventually, the students from Oxford who were studying in France were kicked out do to fighting between the two nations. They came back home where the monks who had educated them earlier decided to establish a university there.

In the begining, there was not a school built for these children to use. Students and their teachers would use the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin as their classrooms; the church still exists in Oxford today. After seven years of schooling, the students would recieve a Masters, and from there they would be able to teach their own students. Today, Oxford University is made up of 38 colleges including the orignial colleges which were started as far back as the 13th century.

Our tour guide was very knowledgable about the history of the university and the way in which it operates today, and how it operated in the past. She also explained how the school began to expand outside of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and into buildings built for the school.

Construction on the first building was started in 1425 but took over 15 years just to complete three of the four walls. Before the fourth wall was finished, the builder died. In order to hurry the process along, a new builder was brought in, who decided to add a second story to the building, with the intention of it becoming a library. Upon the completion of the building, Duke Humfries donated his collection of books to the university where it remained until the entire collection, except for three books were destroyed during the time period known as the reformation.

Afterwards, a name by the name of Thomas Bodley, a former student of Oxford, donated his large collection of over 3,000 books to the school around 1598. Not only did he give his books, but he also had the library refurbished after the damage and destruction caused by the removal of the Humfries collection. Bodley had heavy wooden shelves made and installed for the books in the library, but the weight of the books and the shelving was too heavy for the building and the foundation to handle. It was then that Sir Christopher Wren, who has been tied to almost all of our library visits so far, saved the day! He reinforced the building to be able to withstand the weight of the books.

The Bodlein Library began the first copyright library with the second largest collection of books. Today, the library houses over 11 million books in their collection. The Bodleian is not a lending library; books can be used inside of the building but must not be taken out. In order to use a book, the patron (typically and student or researcher), must tell the librarian which reading room they will be working in. Only librarians can take the older books off of the shelves.

Another library, part of the Oxford campus that we visited on this tour was the Radcliffe Camera. Built after the man John Radcliffe donated money to the school for the collection of medical and science books. I really enjoyed this tour, and I am so glad I was able to visit such a historical library. I would love to one day be a student at Oxford and utilize the resources of the Bodleian for my studies.

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