7 March 2008
The largest single cash donation ever made to a university library in the UK has been given to the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
Julian Blackwell has donated £5m towards the redevelopment of the New Bodleian Library in Oxford City centre. The renovation will transform the housing of the Bodleian’s priceless collections and will open up its treasures to the public. The 10,000 square feet main hall of the redeveloped New Bodleian Library will be named Blackwell Hall in honour of Julian Blackwell.
The donation launches the fundraising campaign for the redevelopment of the New Bodleian Library building into a major research centre, and a significant new cultural centre, where scholars, citizens of Oxford, and visitors to the city can view some of the University’s greatest treasures, and gain insights into the research activities of the University.
The gift cements the relationship between the Bodleian Library and the University of Oxford with Blackwell’s, the library’s neighbour and long-established partner, which opened its Broad Street store in 1879. Blackwell's operates over 60 bookshops throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
The donation will be officially announced during the Bodleian Founder’s Lunch on 8 March, an annual event honouring the memory of the Library’s founder, Sir Thomas Bodley, and his legacy of philanthropy. The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE MP, Minister for the Arts, is attending the lunch and will give an address. For the twentieth time, the lunch will generously be sponsored by Blackwell's, as part of its support for the University of Oxford.
The 400-year old Bodleian is globally acknowledged to be one of the greatest libraries in the world. Its collections include the papers of six British prime ministers; a Gutenberg Bible; the earliest surviving book written wholly in English; a quarter of the world’s original copies of the Magna Carta; the original manuscript of Frankenstein; and over 10,000 medieval manuscripts.
Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: ‘Julian Blackwell’s gift will help transform the New Bodleian from a book fortress into an inviting and inspiring space for readers. The Blackwell Hall will welcome visitors to exhibitions and events that celebrate the book, and will serve as the entrance to the New Bodleian for those doing advanced scholarly research. ‘
Julian Blackwell, President of Blackwell's said: ‘The Bodleian is unique; it not only has the largest and most important University collections in the world, but it is leading the development of cutting-edge information services which are so vital to academic research. I am proud that my personal Trust can support the Bodleian and thereby enable its neighbour, Blackwell's, to be a shared destiny lifetime partner.’
Cllr John Goddard, Leader of Oxford City Council said: ‘I warmly welcome the proposal to make the New Bodleian - and the treasures of the University's libraries - accessible to Oxford residents and the public at large.’
Founded in 1602, the Bodleian Library is home to over 9 million volumes and a large number of manuscripts and rare printed books. It is the largest university library in Britain and the second largest library in the UK.
BBC - Rare books set for public display
BBC - Oxford display of rare books