400 Years of the Bodleian Library
William Clennell celebrates the 400th anniversary of Oxford's Bodleian Library.
On November 8th, the Bodleian Library in Oxford will celebrate the 400th anniversary of its opening. Refounded in 1602 on the site of the earlier university library, it has since 1604 borne by royal decree the name of the remarkable man whose endowment remains the greatest benefaction ever received by the University of Oxford.
The first university library, housed in a room above the convocation house next to St Mary’s Church, was transferred in 1488 to much grander premises over the new Divinity School to accommodate the gifts of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. Here, lacking the resources to acquire printed books, it declined until it was finally dispersed by the zealously reforming Commissioners of Edward VI. The room remained empty until Thomas Bodley brought about the library’s revival, and indeed a renaissance of learning in Oxford.