History of the Library

History of the Library

The Taylor Institution was established in 1845 following the bequest of the architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714-1788), who left the residue of his estate to establish a centre for the teaching of modern European languages in Oxford. The Taylor Institution, together with its Library, was designed to occupy the east wing of C.R. Cockerell's neo-classical building (1841-1844), commissioned by the University to house both the Institution and the Randolph Galleries (now the Ashmolean Museum). The University approved a statute regulating the Institution in 1847 and its first Librarian was appointed the same year. The Library opened in early 1849.

With the formal establishment of the University's Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages in 1903, the teaching, and other activities of the Faculty have largely been centred on the Taylor Institution building, as has the Library. An extension along St. Giles', designed by T.H. Hughes, was completed in 1938, largely so as to accommodate the Library's expanding collections.

During the 1960s, the Slavonic and East European collections moved into an adjacent building, at 67 St Giles'. In the late 1970s, these collections transferred to new quarters, at 41-47 Wellington Square, as did the Institution's administrative and academic staff. The Slavonic and East European Collections were reunited with the other collections in the Taylor Institution building in 2016.

A detailed description of the Library's history and historic collections was published in the Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.

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