Manuscripts and Rare Books

Manuscripts and Rare Books in the Bodleian Library

Manuscripts and archives

The Bodleian Library's Special Collections (at the Weston Library) holds the second largest collection of manuscripts and archives in Britain, with items ranging in date from papyri of the 3rd century B.C. to correspondence and papers of the present. Particular strengths are medieval manuscripts, 17th-century literary and historical collections, antiquarian and topographical manuscripts, Commonwealth and African collections, and modern scholarly, literary, and political papers and digital material, including the University Archives for the University of Oxford.

Oriental collections

The Bodleian Library's Department of Oriental Collections (at the Weston Library) is responsible for manuscripts, archival collections, early printed books and other special collections in oriental languages. These are held in the central Bodleian, with the exception of Japanese manuscripts and rare books, which are held at the Bodleian Japanese Library.

In a number of the languages of Asia and North Africa, for example, in Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Persian and Sanskrit, the collections are of exceptional quality and importance. Additionally, there are many outstanding smaller collections, illuminated and illustrated manuscripts, papyri, paintings, bindings and other individual items of national and international interest in a wide range of languages including Aramaic, Armenian, Burmese, Chagatay, Coptic, Egyptian, Ethiopic, Georgian, Javanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Syriac, Tibetan and Turkish.

Small but significant collections of materials relating to Central Asia, Tibet and the Himalayas, Korea and South East Asia have been acquired largely since 1800, including a small number of 19th and 20th century archival collections relating to Asia.

Printed ephemera

The Bodleian Library's manuscript collection including items by Flaubert, Gide, Sartre, Giono, as well as numerous autographs and letters. Special West European printed items include 55 incunables, ca 450 pre-1801 dictionaries, the French Enlightenment collection in the Voltaire Room, the Fiedler, Finch, Strachan, Guarini, Moore and Pring-Mill collections. East European special collections include the Morfill, Dawkins, Forbes and Hasluck collections. 

English Faculty Library

The English Faculty Library special collections comprise the library and papers of Wilfred Owen; books and journals relating to the study of Old Norse-Icelandic language and literature; the literary works and papers of E H W  Meyerstein; the Napier collection on Old and Middle English philology; and approximately 9000 pre-1850 volumes, including 251 dating 1475-1640.

Bio- and Environmental Sciences

The libraries in Bio- and Environmental Sciences include major special collections in taxonomy and forestry (Sherardian Plant Sciences Library). The Taxonomic Collections are curated in association with the Oxford University Herbaria, located in the same building, and many of the books and manuscripts in the Sherard Collection relate to specimens held in the Herbaria. Most famous of these is Sibthorp’s Flora Graeca, now fully digitised.

The Oxford Forest Information Service holds extensive collections of grey literature from across the globe, fully abstracted in association with CABI.

The Alexander Library of Ornithology works in close association with the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology; its archives contain field notes and papers of many noted ornithologists, and most of its book holdings are reviewed in Ibis, journal of the British Ornithologist’s Union.

Leopold Muller Memorial Library

The Leopold Muller Memorial Library contains the Kressel Archive of Hebrew newspaper and periodical cuttings relating mainly to Jewish eminents and litterateurs of the 19th and 20th century.

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