History and Architecture

The Bodleian Law Library was opened on the 17th October 1964 by Erwin Nathaniel Griswold, then Dean of Harvard Law School. (He retired from the post in 1967, when he was appointed United States Solicitor General.)

We celebrated our 50th Anniversary in October 2014, our online exhibition is currently down but should be back shortly. In the meantime you can access the commemorative booklet.

In 2013 we collaborated with the Law Faculty to create a series called Notable Works, showcasing artistic works that contributors thought were particularly inspiring.  A Pdf booklet will soon be available.

The Library makes up a large part of the St Cross Building, which was designed by Sir Leslie Martin and Colin St John Wilson. Martin's most famous work is the Royal Festival Hall, the first post war building to receive Grade 1 listed status, and Wilson is best known for the new British Library building.

Martin described the Bodleian Law Library as "the main component of a composite group which includes the English Faculty Library and a building for the Institute for Statistics". The latter is now housed in the Manor Road Building next door; the future use of the space, which also housed Economics, and then was a graduate workspace for law students, is presently under consideration.

The Law Library was designed to house 450,000 volumes across four floors, with all except the most vulnerable directly accessible to readers, while lessening "the risk of confronting the reader with a forest of book stacks in which he might literally become lost".

The structural frame of the building is of reinforced concrete, clad in brickwork of a colour compatible with neighbouring buildings, with window frames of black anodized aluminium and roofs covered with copper sheeting and asphalt.

The interior is largely plastered and painted white, with brick cladding in the entrance hall. The floors are tiled with cork and the shelves laminated with beech. The tables in the reading room are of African walnut with brass light fittings.




photo montage of the Bodleian Law Library

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