Manuscripts and Rare Books

Manuscripts and Rare Books in the Bodleian Libraries

Manuscripts and archives

The Bodleian Libraries' 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 Libraries' 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 rare books, which are stored offsite and need to be requested ahead of time through SOLO.

In a number of the languages of Asia, the Middle East 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.

Taylor Institution Library

The Taylorian special collections include 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: 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.

The library and papers of Wilfred Owen were presented to the English Faculty in 1975 by Mrs Harold Owen. Since January 2016 these have been housed in the Weston Library, where any queries about the collection should be directed.

Bio- and Environmental Sciences

The Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy is located in the Department of Plant Sciences with the collections covering plant taxonomy, systematics, floristics and plant evolution, in addition to special collections and historical material. The Library is closely associated with, and located alongside, the Oxford University Herbaria with many of the books and manuscripts in the Sherard Collection relating to specimens held in the Herbaria. Most famous of these is Sibthorp's Flora Graeca, now fully digitised.

The Alexander Library of Ornithology is one of the foremost ornithological reference libraries in the world with extensive collections of 19th, 20th and 21st century books, pamphlets and periodicals covering ornithology, natural history, conservation, ecology and behaviour. The library shares a close relationship with the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology and the British Ornithologists' Union and books which have been reviewed within its journal, The Ibis, are subsequently deposited in the Alexander Library. Its special collections, comprising an extensive archive of 19th and 20th Century ornithological notebooks, diaries, photographs and letters of many noted ornithologists plus a collection of rare books, are now held at the Weston Library, where enquires should be directed.

Oxford Forestry Collections holds extensive collections of grey literature from across the globe, fully abstracted in association with CABI.

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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