Friday, August 12, 2011

Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Forty-five minutes outside of London is the lovely town of Oxford. This darling little burg has roots as far back as 700 AD. During these early years, men seeking education had to go to university in Paris. Several monasteries were established in Oxford due to its central location and subsequently, a university was established to keep the young men in the country to get their education. The Church of St. Mary the Virgin was used as the first educational building.

The first library at Oxford University was added to St Mary's in 1320. In those days the library was always located on the upper floor to protect the books from possible flood damage. The galleries were build with huge windows to allow sunlight in because no fire was allowed for illumination. To this day, each student must make a vow to never expose an open flame in the library. In the 15th century the first purpose built building for the university was erected for the purpose of lectures and examinations, all of which took place in Latin.

In 1488 a new library was finished which held the Duke Humfrey's Library and a divinity school. A few years later there was this guy named Henry who decided to shake things up a bit. As a result of his dissolution of the monasteries, all but a precious dozen of the books in the library were burned.

Thomas Bodley was a diploma tin the Netherlands and had been educated in Geneva and England. Seeing the value in education, he returned to Oxford to establish a central library. It is from his name that we have the Bodleian Library. The Bodleian Library was England's first copyright library and by 1610 was the second largest in the world. Each college in the university had their own library so the Bodleian acted as the university's central library. It houses 11 million books. Materials are not available for lending but must be accessed through the reading room.

The interior of the library is visually stunning. Much of the architecture has been featured in films including the Harry Potter series. In fact the library in the movie is in fact the stacks in the Bodleian. Two stories high, the books are packed on the shelves, showing off their beautiful spines.

*The amazing display cap above is by Jessica Hische, an amazing designer I came across in my perpetual search for awesome design and typography. The letter comes from her Daily Drop Cap project.

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