Libraries & Archives

Oxford has the largest university library system in the UK, with over one hundred libraries. Bodleian Libraries, which comprises most of the main University libraries, holds over 11 million printed items and vast quantities of materials in many other formats. Its collections grow by three miles of shelving each year.

The Bodleian Library, the University's main research library, is over 400 years old and is globally acknowledged to be one of the greatest libraries in the world. The library has 120 miles of occupied shelving, 29 reading rooms and 2,490 places for readers. It is the second largest library in the UK after the British Library.

The Bodleian Library's priceless collections include the papers of six British Prime Ministers; a Gutenberg Bible; the earliest surviving book written wholly in English; a quarter of the world's original copies of the Magna Carta; and almost 10,000 western medieval and renaissance manuscripts.

The University has kept records ever since it acquired a true identity in the early 13th century. The earliest document is the unique handwritten Award of the Papal Legate dated 1214. The Archive holds an exceptional collection of documents often directly associated with early English monarchs from Henry III to Elizabeth I. Royal Charters granted to the University by the English monarchy are often richly illuminated and embellished. Featuring beautiful decorative lettering and delicate illustrations, many of these have inspired designers to create product lines that embody the opulence of the times.