Bodley Medal

The Bodley Medal is the Bodleian Libraries’ highest honour, awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the worlds of books and literature, libraries, media and communications, science and philanthropy.

History of the Bodley Medal

The original Bodley Medal was struck in 1646 in honour of Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613), founder of the Bodleian Library. It was designed and engraved by the French craftsman Claude Warin, one of the leading medal-makers of the 17th century. Bodleian Library accounts from 1646 record a payment of two shillings for this work: ‘Item, to ye painter that drew Sir Thomas Bodley’s picture, and to Mr Warren that made his medale, to each of them 2s’. The original Bodley Medal was gilt, most likely on bronze.  

During major renovations of the Bodleian Library’s reading rooms at the turn of the millennium, which included the replacement of the roof of Duke Humfrey’s Library, copper from the Library’s roof was used to create a set of 100 replicas of the original commemorative medal. The new Bodley Medal was struck at the Royal Mint in 2001 to celebrate the restoration of Duke Humfrey’s Library, which opened to scholars in 1488 as the first purpose-built library for the University of Oxford.

The obverse of the medal bears the right profile of Sir Thomas Bodley and the inscription ‘TH BODLY EQ AVR PVBL BIBLIOTH OXON FVNDATOR’ (‘Sir Thomas Bodley, Founder of the Public Library at Oxford’). The medal is signed ‘Warin’. On the reverse, the figure of a woman holds a bust of Apollo in her right hand and a bust of Diana in her left, representing the sun and the moon. It bears the inscription ‘AETERNAS R[EI] P[UBLICAE] LITERARIAE’ (‘the eternity of the Republic of Letters’).

The first Bodley Medal event was held in New York in 2002.

Recipients of the Bodley Medal

2022 Zadie Smith (novelist)
2020 Pat Barker (novelist)
2019 Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (novelist)
Professor Amartya Sen (economist and philosopher)
2018 Claire Tomalin (biographer and journalist)
2017 William Boyd (novelist and screenwriter)
2016

Professor Dame Mary Beard (classicist)
Dame Maggie Smith (actress)
Christopher Tolkien (editor and scholar)

2015

Sir David Attenborough (naturalist)
Jim Eyre (architect)
Professor Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist)
Sir Nicholas Hytner (theatre and film director)

2014 Ian McEwan (novelist)
2013 Dame Hilary Mantel (novelist)

2012

Peter Carey (novelist)
2008 Alan Bennett (actor, author and playwright)
2005

Helmut Friedlaender (bibliophile and philanthropist)  
Carl Pforzheimer III (bibliophile and philanthropist)
William Scheide (bibliophile and philanthropist)

2004

Lord Richard Attenborough (film director)
Professor Seamus Heaney (poet)
Sir Thomas Stoppard (playwright and screenwriter)

2003

Pat Mitchell (president and CEO of Public Broadcasting Service)
Dr Oliver Sacks (physician and writer)
Dr John Warnock (co-founder of Adobe Systems)

2002

Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web)
Baroness PD James (novelist)
Rupert Murdoch (chairman of News Corporation)