About the Friends

The Bodleian Library is one of the most important research libraries in the world. It was established in 1602 as the principal library of the University of Oxford. It is the second largest library in Britain and, from 1610, one of the country’s copyright libraries (assuring availability of a wide range of research material for years to come.)

The Library’s invaluable collections of manuscripts, printed books and electronic resources have been meeting the needs of readers in all areas of scholarship for generations. To be able to continue to do this, the Library needs to be ready to acquire treasures whenever they surface, often unexpectedly.

Founded in 1925, the Friends of the Bodleian is one of the oldest organisations of its kind. It provides funds for material that would otherwise be beyond the Library’s reach. It also helps to preserve the priceless collections and explains their significance through lectures, literary, musical and other events. Increasingly, the Friends’ contribution towards the purchase of new acquisitions strengthens the Library’s case when appealing to outside sources for grants.

Notable acquisitions secured by the Friends include a 14th-century manuscript Book of Hours, the Sheldon tapestry map, and the final working autograph of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides overture.

The Friends continue a great tradition of the Library’s founder, Sir Thomas Bodley. It was his endowment of 1598 that formed the basis of the Library. Throughout its 400-year history, the Library has received many more generous benefactions. By becoming a Friend, you will not only be part of this tradition, but you will carry it forward and make a positive contribution to learning.

The Friends of the Bodleian is the largest of the Library's support groups. Separate organisations exist for Friends living in the USA, Canada, Germany, Japan and South Africa.

Thomas Bodley
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