Collections and resources at the Bodleian Old Library

A long room with a stained glass window at the end, there are wooden book shelves and alcoves on either site


The Bodleian Old Library holds collections in Classics and Ancient History, English, History, History of Science, Local History, Philosophy, Reference, Theology and Patristics.


The open shelf Classics material is arranged across four rooms of the Lower Reading Room.

The Enquiry and Reference Room contains:

  • General studies on combined Greek and Latin subjects (C.Gen)
  • Ancient Language (C.Lang)
  • Numismatics (C.Num)
  • General reference (B)

The Greek Room collection contains papyrological texts and modern works on history and religion.

  • Greek Texts (C.Gr.)
  • Greek texts, arranged alphabetically by author (C.Gr.A. – C.Gr.Z.)
  • Classical History of Greek and Roman World (C.Hist.)
  • History of the Greek Classical World (C.Hist.Gr.)
  • History of the Latin Classical World (C.Hist.Rom.)
  • Classical epigraphy (C.Epig.)

The Latin Room houses Latin authors along with a reference section and indices.

  • Latin texts (C.Lat.)
  • Latin texts, arranged alphabetically by author (C.Lat.A.-V.)
  • Concordances of classical texts (Latin and Greek) (C.Index)
  • Reference works for the classical world (C.Ref.A-D.)
  • Classical dictionaries (this sequence continues in the Tower Room for modern language dictionaries) (C.Dict)
  • Classics New Periodicals (latest editions, arranged alphabetically by journal title)

The Tower Room holds the display of new books for Classics, Late Antiquity, Theology and Philosophy, and a section on Late Antiquity which is classified using the Library of Congress classification scheme (shelfmarks AC1 – Z8).


The Theology section contains undergraduate teaching collections. The Patristics section holds material relating to Greek and Latin writers from the rise of Christianity to the invention of printing. Core reference titles and a collection of Bible texts are also available in the Patristics room.


  • Reference works on religion (Th.Ref.A-B)
  • General Religion (Th.B)
  • Dictionaries (Th.Dict)
  • Church History (Th.H)
  • Polity (Th.J)
  • Liturgy (Th.Liturg)
  • Apologetics; Dogma and Christian Theology; God; Creation; Christology; Sacraments; Eschatology; Christian Life (Th.P to Th. W )
  • Th.Y.A-Z  Theologians Post 1450 (secondary works)
  • ​Th.Text  Primary works of Theologians


  • Patrologia Graeca and Patrologia Latina (Pat.Gr. and Pat.Lat.)
  • Bible Atlases (T.Atlas)
  • Early works on the Bible (T.Bibl.)
  • Works on the Bible; Old and New Testament; Gospels; Acts, Epistles, Revelation (T.Bible.D to T.Bible.H)
  • General Theology (T.Gen.)
  • Primary texts (T.Text.)
  • Primary sources in Greek and Latin (T.Text.Gr. and T.Text.Lat.)


The Philosophy Room in the Lower Reading Room houses the main Philosophy collection, including reference works:

  • Reference works (Phil.Ref.)
  • Encyclopaedias and reference tools (Phil.A)
  • History of Philosophy, General (Phil.B)
  • Ancient/Medieval Philosophy (Phil.C)
  • Philosophy, Bacon to circa 1755 (Phil.D)
  • Philosophy, c.1755 - c.1820 (Phil.E)
  • Philosophy, c.1820 to c.1945 (Phil.F)
  • Contemporary Philosophy (Phil.G)
  • Philosophy, Science and Religion (Phil.H)
  • Critical texts arranged alphabetically by author (Phil.Text)


The open-shelf History collections (shelmarks beginning K) are held in the Upper Reading Room. These consist largely of source materials, major bibliographical and reference works, and periodicals relating to the History of the British Isles and Europe, from the fall of the Roman Empire to 1945 and beyond, with some coverage of other geographical areas.

  • Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) Reports (K.3)
  • Calendars (K.5)
  • Society publications and church history (K.6)
  • Medieval history (K.7)
  • Belgian and French history sources (K.8)
  • German, Austrian, Italian and Spanish history sources (K.9)
  • British sources (K.10)

The Upper Reading Room also houses collections of History of Science. These are classified using the Library of Congress classification scheme.


The open-shelf English Literature collections (shelfmarks beginning A) are held in the Upper Reading Room. These consist largely of standard editions of the works of the principal authors from the Anglo-Saxon period onwards, major bibliographical and reference works and series.

  • General Literature; folklore; anthologies (A.1)
  • English Language (A.2)
  • General English Literature; criticism; bibliographies; guides to dissertations and theses; dictionaries of quotations; other reference works; book production; history of language and grammar; place names; personal names (A.3)
  • English Literature to 1500 (A.4)
  • English Literature, 1500 - 1700 (A.5)
  • English Literature, 1700 - 1950 (A.6)
  • American Literature (A.7)


The general reference collections encompass general, national and regional bibliography, encyclopaedias, general quick reference works, and general and national biographical reference works (especially those covering Western Europe).

The open shelf general reference collection (shelfmarks beginning with B) can currently be found at the north end of the Lower Reading Room in the Bodleian Old Library, where the Main Enquiry Desk is also located. The collection includes general bibliographies, quick reference works such as directories, and several general encyclopaedias. There is a section of material related to the University, including a full set of the University Calendar, and an extensive biographical section.

The majority of the collection supports study of the humanities, and most materials focus on Western Europe, complementing other Bodleian Libraries' reference collections. Print copies of the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary and of Johnson's Dictionary are shelved in the Upper Reading Room.


Some special collections material is kept in the bays and Arts End of Duke Humfrey's Library. This material can be requested through SOLO and is consulted in the Weston Library. If you have any enquiries about this material, please direct them to special collections staff in the Weston Library.

New books

The Tower Room in the Lower Reading Room has a display of new books in Classics, Late Antiquity, Theology and Philosophy. 

Recent acquisitions of graduate and research materials for English (both legal deposit and selections from a wide range of foreign accessions) are displayed at the south end of the Upper Reading Room with the shelfmark New Books Display. Recent acquisitions for History can be found next to the Upper Reading Room self-collect shelves.