6 Reasons to Add the Bodleian Library to Your Book Bucket List

Posted by Hayley on June 23, 2015


If "books are a uniquely portable magic," then libraries must be one of the most magical places on earth (and librarians must be magicians). Oxford University's Bodleian Library certainly looks the part. This historical institution—and part-time Hogwarts stand-in—is a must-see for any traveling book worm. If it isn't on your book bucket list already, we think we can change your mind.


Reason #1: It has over 11 million printed items.
Not to shame your local library, but we're betting your usual book haunts can't quite compare to Bodleian's veritable army of tomes. Among the 11 million items to browse are a rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, unbound and unrestored, along with the largest collection of pre-1500 printed books in any university library in the world.

Reason #2: This is what it looks like on the outside.

Be still our bookish hearts. The image above is of Radcliffe Camera, which serves as a reading room for the Bodleian (because the Bodleian is so massive that architectural wonders like this are used as a "room").

Reason #3: Its history goes back to the fourteenth century.
While the Bodleian Library officially opened to scholars in the seventeenth century, the collection truly began with Thomas Cobham, Bishop of Worcester, in 1320. At the time, all of the books were chained to the wall to prevent theft. With generous contributions from Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and Thomas Bodley, the library was refitted and re-opened under the name Bodleian Library on November 8, 1602.

Reason #4: You may have seen your favorite fictional wizards here on the big screen.

Duke Humphrey's library, the oldest reading room in the Bodleian, was used as the filming location for the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films. And, in case you were wondering, The Bodleian staff is "experienced in working with both small and large scale filming projects." Other film credits include The Golden Compass, Brideshead Revisited, and The Madness of King George III.

Reason #5: It has a pretty sweet nickname.
Just call it "Bodley" or the "the Bod," and you'll fit right in with the rest of the Oxford students. (Well, maybe not, but it's worth a try.)

Reason #6: Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and more browsed its shelves.

Some of the greats have found inspiration here. Including the above writers, five kings, 40 Nobel Prize winners, and 26 prime ministers (and counting!) have all studied at the Bodleian.


Know of any other magical places for our book bucket list? Let us know in the comments!

Comments Showing 1-50 of 94 (94 new)


message 1: by D.G. (new)

D.G. Hmmm...when we went to Oxford a few years ago, I don't know that we were able to get into the library. Definitely not to the Radcliffe Camera.

We did visit the Ashmolean which was awesome.


message 2: by Kay (new)

Kay J Oh my goodness, I've always wanted to visit a old library, I wouldn't know what to do....well I do I'd go through every aisle there, what a beautiful library. I'd check out all the classic books they'd have here.


message 3: by Shilpa (new)

Shilpa bagla This library has always been on my to visit list and now after reading these facts (esp #4), I want to go to this library even more !!!


اية محمود Aya Mahmoud it's amazing :)


message 5: by Phoenix2 (new)

Phoenix2 I'll make a point to visit it when I'm in England


message 6: by Sally (new)

Sally Copus ...before I die! I would love to visit it. There's not enough time in one life to visit all the places I would love to go when I want to revisit so many that I've already seen! But this most certainly is at the top of my list.


message 7: by Alex (new)

Alex I was lucky enough to be "a reader" at the Bodleian years ago. It meant full access to all the different rooms of the library and even some tours of the extensive shelves underground. It is everything it seems and more. To be able to hold a book in your hand that Milton published while he was still alive is an awe-inspiring moment. I dream of going back there one day.


message 8: by Phyllis (new)

Phyllis Trinity College in Dublin. The library in the Biltmore estate (N. Carolina)


message 9: by Kavanagh (new)

Kavanagh Koh I don't know if this is a stupid question,can we read the books inside?


message 10: by Christiana (new)

Christiana I would love to visit a library like this :)


message 11: by Lily (last edited Jun 23, 2015 08:23AM) (new)

Lily Christiana wrote: "I would love to visit a library like this :)"

Christiana -- If you get a chance, try the Library of Parliament in Ottawa. Or at Harvard.

Not the same as Bodleian, but still magic.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/el_pato...
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi...

"Designed by Thomas Fuller and Chilion Jones, and inspired by the British Museum Reading Room..."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library...

A bit of the story of Widener Library at Harvard:
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story...

Dartmouth in New Hampshire probably has an inviting library, too, although perhaps not of these scopes. Much work on significant digital platforms has gone on from there.


message 12: by Lily (new)

Lily Jing wrote: "I don't know if this is a stupid question,can we read the books inside?"

See Alex's comment at 7. Most great libraries have a system of access to their collections; some are far more complex than others. (At least one venerable library is currently undergoing turmoil because some extremely valuable items had not been adequately tracked.) I have been in a number where I could pull a book from the shelves and sit down to read. In others, the process appeared too formidable to even venture a try.


message 13: by Lily (new)

Lily http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/14/travel/...

A slide show of 27 libraries.


message 14: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante *Definitely* want to go and check this out. Even if I couldn't handle the books, I'd be in awe with the architecture!

Such a beautiful combination of the two...


message 15: by Linda (new)

Linda I would purposely get lost, so that I could stay even longer!


message 16: by Chloe (new)

Chloe Portugal. The convent in Mafra as a beautiful library


message 17: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I have many fond memories studying in the Duke Humphrey! Great place to read.


message 18: by Faith (new)

Faith Wow, this place looks magical. I'm pretty sure that I'd lose track of time and spend the whole day in here. Wow.


message 19: by T. (new)

T. Soto Stunning! Oxford students and staff are incredibly fortunate to have every day access to such a place. Thank you for sharing!


message 20: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Will add it and the Ashmolean to my bucket list for my next trip to the UK.


message 22: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie “I took to the Bodleian library as to a lover and ... would sit long hours in Bodley's arms to emerge, blinking and dazed with the small and feel of all those books.”

Laurie R. King The Beekeeper's Apprentice


message 23: by C-shaw (new)

C-shaw I want to LIVE here!!!!


message 25: by Kay (new)

Kay J Alex wrote: "I was lucky enough to be "a reader" at the Bodleian years ago. It meant full access to all the different rooms of the library and even some tours of the extensive shelves underground. It is everyth..."

Wow seriously?that's awesome you we're able to experience that.


message 26: by Kay (new)

Kay J Sally wrote: "...before I die! I would love to visit it. There's not enough time in one life to visit all the places I would love to go when I want to revisit so many that I've already seen! But this most certai..."

Mine too, hope you can get to it :)


message 27: by Betsy (new)

Betsy Seattle Public Library is worth a visit:




message 28: by Kay (last edited Jun 23, 2015 02:22PM) (new)

Kay J I'm so jealous of the ones who've had an amazing opportunity to visit spectacular libraries, I hope I will have a chance to visit an amazing library. When my family and I go on vacation they hate when I spot a nice independent bookstore, I'm in there for hours and its still not enough, I can't even imagine if I was to walk through a library like this, they'd never see me again, I'd never leave the place!


message 29: by Licha (new)

Licha GR, I loved this blog. You should do more libraries around the world. I still prefer my humble, little local library (can't beat it for the coziness and everyone here knows us so it feels like family).

GR, do more, more, more, please.


message 30: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary I went to this library during a class trip to London and Paris and we spend the day in Oxford. Unfortunately we were unable to go inside due to the fact that my class went during the spring time and classes were in session. I'm glad that these facts shows what it looks like on the inside but the outside is pretty amazing as well.


message 31: by Karen M (last edited Jun 23, 2015 03:18PM) (new)

Karen M Okay, New York Public Library on 5th Avenue is not listed but if you live in the area and haven't been there, then shame on you! Just walking past the library lions was pretty amazing for a 16 year old trying to pass as a college student because use of the library on Saturday's was, at that time, restricted to college students. Just check out their website and you'll see why I think it should have made the list.


message 32: by Nell (new)

Nell Rose I don't think you are allowed inside, I know it wasn't available to the public when I visited Oxford.


message 33: by Denise (new)

Denise Kay wrote: "Oh my goodness, I've always wanted to visit a old library, I wouldn't know what to do....well I do I'd go through every aisle there, what a beautiful library. I'd check out all the classic books th..."

i would just break down and cry lol


message 34: by David (new)

David Settle I had no problem gaining admission to the Bodleian several years ago. You still are required to orally recite a declaration that you will not remove or harm any of the library's books before entering the building.


message 35: by Allison (new)

Allison IF I were to ever go there, I would never, ever want to leave. EVER. It looks like Hawaii for my soul!

It might be better if I don't go. I would be depressed for weeks upon weeks after leaving there.


message 36: by Meredith (new)

Meredith I got to visit the Bodleian a little over a decade ago when I was in college. It is gorgeous!


message 37: by pink (new)

pink (not just another shade of red) I wanna live there. Forever.


message 38: by Priyanka (last edited Jun 23, 2015 11:52PM) (new)

Priyanka It looks so magical... i wish if i can visit this library somewhere in my life.. they say It has over 11 million printed items... its simply a reader's paradise... love love love it soooooooooo much.. I am even imagining myself entering there and checking the shelves, passing from one corridor to another with a kind of amazement look on my face...picking up some books and then sitting quietly on a bench where sun rays approaching through the glass window.. Ahhaaaa... heaven <3


Kells Next Read Looks amazing...


message 40: by Abhishek (new)

Abhishek Ganguly Been here loads of times. It is, by far, the best place in Oxford. To make things sweeter, the confectionery of Mr. Pimms is nearby.


message 41: by Diana (new)

Diana It was closed when we were there. They were getting ready for half term.


message 42: by Imee (new)

Imee Whoa! I'd love to go there! A place with lots of books is just AMAZING!!! :)


message 43: by Filip (new)

Filip I'm a student at Oxford so I'll just clarify a few things:
- Photo #2 is NOT the Bodleian, it is called the Radcliffe camera which is also a library which contains mostly history books. The actual Bodleian is located directly behind the "Rad Cam" and is much much larger.
- Yes visitors can go on a tour inside but they must not remove, touch or open any books. There is a famous story that Prince Charles once visited the Bodleian and asked the librarian if he could took a look at a certain book and she did not let him stating that this was only reserved for students haha


message 44: by Priyanka (new)

Priyanka Hello Filip..it is very unfortunate that visitors are not allowed to remove, touch or open any books there... but can they roam around freely in library exploring the corridors and sections and sit there whole day or it is also restricted to some hours???


Cold War Conversations Podcast I'd recommend Chetham's if you are ever in Manchester.



Founded in 1653 and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. It is an independent charity and remains open to readers and visitors free of charge.

Don't miss the wooden desk in the window alcove of the Reading Room where Frederick Engels and Karl Marx used to work.

http://www.chethams.org.uk/


Cold War Conversations Podcast We're also spoilt by having the John Rylands library as well.



An amazing neo-Gothic building with elements of Arts and Crafts Movement. This has free entry too!

More info here http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/r...


message 47: by ☆Dani☆ (new)

☆Dani☆ Phyllis wrote: "Trinity College in Dublin. The library in the Biltmore estate (N. Carolina)"

Trinity College Library is amazing. Kind of like a smaller, less famous version of the Bodleian Library really.


message 48: by Kay (new)

Kay J Denise wrote: "Kay wrote: "Oh my goodness, I've always wanted to visit a old library, I wouldn't know what to do....well I do I'd go through every aisle there, what a beautiful library. I'd check out all the clas..."

Hahaha, you know I would probably shed some tears too, especially if I came across original classic books!


message 49: by Kay (new)

Kay J David wrote: "I had no problem gaining admission to the Bodleian several years ago. You still are required to orally recite a declaration that you will not remove or harm any of the library's books before enteri..."

That would be hard to comply to, but a nice experienceto just be around all those books


message 50: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Mannino I attended Oxford, and spent a LOT of time in the Bodelian (actually started writing my first novel School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino right in Duke of Gloucester room) but I will add- tourists are NOT supposed to be allowed to most of the library. There are checkpoints, and so on. The library stretches underground- Radcliffe Camera's actually one of the smaller parts- seemed like thats where the undergrads went (I was in postgrad). Definitely one of the most inspiring libraries I've been in.


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