Legal Deposit


Legal Deposit helps to ensure that the nation's published output (and thereby its intellectual record and future published heritage) is collected systematically. It also seeks to preserve the material for the use of future generations and to make it available for readers within the designated legal deposit libraries.

Legal Deposit has existed in English law since 1662 and it led the Bodleian Libraries to early pre-eminence among 'public' libraries of the United Kingdom. As a direct result of this very many major collections of rare books and manuscripts began to be given to the Libraries from the 17th century onwards. Such gifts continue to this day, as a consequence of which the collections of unique and rare research materials held by the Libraries can still be described as the most important and extensive of any academic library anywhere in the world.

There are six Legal Deposit Libraries in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland:

Material published and deposited is retained in the libraries as part of the national published archive and the libraries represent, in a sense, the archives of publishers' printed material. The libraries support learning and knowledge and the publications secured become available in perpetuity.

The legal deposit system also has benefits for authors and publishers:

  • Deposited publications are made available to users of the deposit libraries on their premises, are preserved for the benefit of future generations and become part of the nation's heritage.
  • Publications are recorded in the online catalogues and become an essential research resource for generations to come.
  • Most of the books and new serial titles are listed in the British National Bibliography (BNB), which is used by librarians and the book trade for stock selection. The BNB is available on CD-ROM in MARC exchange formats, and has a world-wide distribution.
  • Publishers have at times approached the deposit libraries for copies of their own publications which they no longer have but which have been preserved through legal deposit.
  • Legal deposit supports a cycle of knowledge, whereby deposited works provide inspiration and source material for new books that will eventually achieve publication.

These vast and important collections serve to make the Libraries an incomparable research resource which can truly be said to be ‘world class’ in all fields of enquiry and scholarship, both current and historical.

Over 50,000 monographs were received by the Bodleian Libraries under legal deposit in the last year year and, in addition, nearly 60,000 serial issues were also deposited.

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