Bodleian Library, Oxford


An update on the Bodleian Library, Oxford, United Kingdom.

The Bodleian Library in Oxford houses well-known manuscript archives for scholars in many disciplines. Over the past several years, I have made a few research trips to the Bodleian and have been highly impressed with the archive and its staff. The staff is knowledgeable, courteous and responds quickly to e-mail requests. They make conducting manuscript research at the Bodleian a smooth and easy endeavor. My short report here highlights some of the practicalities of doing research at the Bodleian that may help those who wish to use its collections.

Getting a Reader’s Card. All researchers (including student researchers) need a reader’s card. This requires a form, likely a letter of recommendation and (depending on your home institution) a small fee. Reader’s cards can be obtained every day but Sunday, and full information on the required documents is available here. So long as you come prepared with your letters and such, filling out the form and getting the card is a quick process, taking usually 15 minutes or less.

Temporary Move of Special Collections. The majority of Western and Oriental materials are housed together in the Special Collections. Most of the collection was moved to the basement of the Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) in 2010 and will remain there until the completion of the New Bodleian Library to be called the ‘Weston Library’ (projected for October 2014). Because of the move, scholars are advised to e-mail the Bodleian staff well in advance of any visits to make sure that the desired materials are available for consultation. If you e-mail, they will also have the materials ready and waiting for you upon arrival. More details about the move and its impact on Special Collections availability can be found here. Tip: It gets quite chilly during the winter months in the RSL basement, so dress warmly.

Manuscript Catalogs. Information about specific collections is available for Oriental and Western manuscripts. For those who work on Persian manuscripts, note that Volume 1 and Volume 3 of the catalog are available online.

Photography Policy. There are two ways of obtaining photographs of manuscripts at the Bodleian. Researchers can order high-resolution images through Imaging Services. Researchers are also permitted to take their own photographs of many manuscripts so long as they use a hand-held camera with no flash. I have personally found the Bodleian’s willingness to allow personal photography at no cost to be a great boon to my own work, and I applaud this archive for taking this crucial step to further academic research.

Contact Information. For collections access, bookings and orders:; 01865 277150. Colin Harris is the Superintendent of the Reading Rooms. Contact details for those in charge of specific collections is here.

Audrey Truschke
Gonville and Caius College
University of Cambridge


Image: Bodleian Library. Photograph by Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons.

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