Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Bodleian Library

On our second full day of classes, we went to the beautiful city of Oxford! I’d been before on my last study abroad trip, but seeing inside the colleges was much more impressive and memorable than the walking tour we did last time. It was also much cooler (it actually sprinkled a little bit towards the end of my time there), which I appreciated!
Our first stop of the day was at the Bodleian library. It was opened in the 1300s, and holds the honor of being the first library in the city of Oxford, though it wasn’t opened to students until the early 1400s. Not long after the library opened to students, the divinity room was deemed necessary, and the first stone was laid in 1427. The original architect, who died partway through construction, was extremely experienced and was permitted to add decorative touches to the windows and other areas. His replacement, however, wasn’t as skilled, and wasn’t allowed to make those decorative touches – and you can tell! It’s still a stunning building, but you can tell there was more than one architect. The pendants and bossets on the ceiling were carved on the ground before being installed, and the plaques on the ceiling were inspired by nature and religion, as well as being the coats of arms of the donors. Much later, Christopher Wren, a professor at Oxford, added to the room and slightly changed the architectural style of the room.
If it seems like I’m blabbering on about this… there’s a reason: this room was the hospital wing in the Harry Potter movies!

The next room we went to was Convocation House. It has beautiful wood seating which is surprisingly not original! It was used as a meeting room for Parliament in the 17th century by Charles the I. and later by the House of Commons.
After that, we went to Chancellors Court – home of Oxford University’s own court. Students, employees, and privileged persons were tried here, until it ended its life as a debtors court in 1968. One of the most famous people tried here? Oxford Wilde, in the 1870s.
Following that, we went in to the Bodleian library itself. While the library has been reorganized to include many libraries, the one we visited is the oldest: Lord Humphrey’s library. Many of the original books in this library were donated by Lord Humphrey, though not all remain due to declines and rises over the library’s history. In the early 1600s, Thomas Bodley restored the library. Not long after that, an agreement was made where the library would become a copyright library. To this day, the Bodelian is one of several libraries in the UK that receive a copy of every item published in the UK. It’s also a purely research library – nobody can be leant a book, not even royals. Books haven’t been chained for several hundred years, but they are sorted by size. That’s not something I was expecting!

Funny story we were told: The library has a copy of Shakespeare’s 1st and 3rd folios. The first went missing pretty early – only to be discovered in 1903 in the family library of one of the university’s students!

This ended up a little longer than I expected, so my next post will cover the Merton College library!


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