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 51-94 of 94 (94 new)

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message 51: by Chhavi (new)

Chhavi It is an amazing place to get lost in. I would love to visit it if I ever get a chance.


message 52: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 24, 2015 07:23AM) (new)

The Librarian in me is drool, I am putting this on my to see List :-)


message 53: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Monk In "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness, the main character spends a lot of time doing research at the Bodleian Library. She describes the process of requesting access to old manuscripts and talks about the guards and library workers. Since the book is a fantasy, I had assumed the library must be, too! Glad to know it's real.


message 54: by Sara (new)

Sara Marks Been there and love it. They don't do tours of the complete library, but there are other rooms that were used for Harry Potter films including the HP infirmary is the Divinity School, bellow Duke Humfrey's. What you can see depends on the day and the guide. Mine included the Radcliffe Camera, but other people have told me they got into the tunnels used to move books from one library to another. The tours cost money, but it is worth it. Also, don't touch the books in Duke Humfrey's.


message 55: by Hayley (new)

Hayley I used to work at the Bod!! Actually had to use a little office off Duke Humphrey's, the one with the bell in that they ring just before closing. I miss the Bod. It smells yummy.

Must add though that public access is limited: it is afterall an academic library. Certain areas are open, but others are closed. For example, in Duke Humphrey's, public can't go passed the gates (on the lefthandside of the bottom picture). The underground tunnels (staff only!) are also amazing. Rainy days were an excuse to use them :-)


message 56: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel Worth pointing out for anyone library-fond who's thinking of visiting Oxford, the Bod is only the tip of the iceberg of libraries in the town. There are also forty-something college libraries, each holding tens of thousands of books, many of which may be accessible for Tours (if you visit out of term, at least). Some of these will be boring modern things, but many are mediaeval or renaissance in origin. The library at Merton College, for instance, is the oldest continuously-functioning academic library in the world (1373), and definitely does tours. Corpus next door has a tudor library dating from 1517, while Christ Church at the end of the street has a giant library from the mid-18th century. Univ at the other end of the street, on the other hand, I think has a more modern library, but its website boasts such wonderfully oxonian details as an actual human brain, and vases in which to store one's carnations.

There's also the library of the Oxford Union (the debating society) - not giant, but very striking (it's decorated with huge Arthurian murals painted by William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and their friends). You could also use library-visiting as an excuse to see some other striking buildings - the neo-gothic victorian chapel, Pusey House, for instance, has a library, as does the middle-eastern-inspired (complete with dome and minaret) Centre for Islamic Studies.

Away from the libraries, the Ashmolean Museum is a 'miniature' (but huge!) British Library, and the Natural History Museum is a miniature... well, Natural History Museum (with a wonderful, pseudo-organic wrought iron architecture). And don't forget the Pitt Rivers Museum at the back of the NHM - beautiful architecture, and it's an anthropological museum, showing basically all the stuff victorian explorers thought was interesting and brought back home (along with some european stuff), arranged by topic so that you can see the similarities and differences in how different cultures approached the same problems. There are also a bunch of smaller places like the Museum of the History of Science - not THAt exciting, but they do some interesting exhibitions (I once went to an exhibition there of steampunk art and design).

Basically, if you like libraries or museums, there are few places better to visit than Oxford...


message 57: by Ashli (new)

Ashli Barrera Added to the bucket list. :)


message 58: by Tabi (new)

Tabi added. To. Bucket. List.


message 59: by Phyllis (new)

Phyllis ☆Ciara☆ wrote: "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..."

Trinity College also has The Book of Kells and the harp of Brian Boru.


message 60: by Michael (new)

Michael Ah this looks like heaven!


message 61: by Tria (last edited Jun 24, 2015 04:22PM) (new)

Tria 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..."

Hmm, that seems a bit ableist on reflection. I can't always speak - among other things, my jaw likes to dislocate...

I do recommend both Mancunian libraries on the list, and add Manchester Central Library to it. The latter has just been refurbished, but it's a beautiful piece of work nonetheless, inside and out; the dome is carefully cleaned every few years (it's sandstone, so needs care).


message 62: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Yeah, Not going to visit England because of what they did to the Irish during the 1800s and early 1900s.


message 63: by Vivian (new)

Vivian I want to go to this library!!!


message 64: by Tria (new)

Tria Benjamin wrote: "Yeah, Not going to visit England because of what they did to the Irish during the 1800s and early 1900s."

Wow. That's pretty impressive, refusing to visit an entire country because of what generations long dead did to generations long dead in your own country. Oh, wait...


Ash~Daydreaming and Reading everywhere I go~ So pretty, I have to go here one day.


message 66: by Isilda (new)

Isilda Costa If you get to visit Portugal don't miss the Biblioteca Joanina in Universidade de Coimbra.

http://visit.uc.pt/biblioteca/


message 67: by Su (new)

Su I was in Oxford last year and visited it! :) it's beautiful and really impressive!


message 68: by Georgiana (new)

Georgiana Derwent I used to be a student at Oxford, and all that beauty just brings back horrible memories of frantic revision! It was always slightly surreal settling down in such a grand place and then actually trying to get on with work, but that's Oxford all over.

It's supposed to have a copy of every book ever published in either English or England, can't remember which. The more random books are kept in an abandoned mine in Wales, and delivered to the library when students or professors request them. This was incredibly useful for obscure historical research, but I did occasionally order random trashy fiction delivered to the reading room!

And don't want to spam the thread, but can't resist pointing out that if you like Oxford, you might enjoy my novel that's set at the University. Oxford Blood (The Cavaliers, #1) by Georgiana Derwent Yes, that is the Radcliffe Camera in the background on the cover!


message 69: by Camelia Rose (last edited Jun 25, 2015 07:58AM) (new)

Camelia Rose How could I not mention the long room of Trinity College Dublin Library?


Oh, someone else above mentioned it already :-)


message 70: by ☆Dani☆ (last edited Jun 25, 2015 08:17AM) (new)

☆Dani☆ Camelia Rose wrote: "How could I not mention the long room of Trinity College Dublin Library?


Oh, someone else above mentioned it already :-)"


Jinx, I was just posting a reply about it the same time you posted the picture. =P

Phyllis wrote: "Trinity College also has The Book of Kells and the harp of Brian Boru."

Yeah, it's lovely there. It's the only really old library I've ever been to, and it's a bit like stepping back in time. The Book of Kells is amazing, to think they literally had to write and draw the whole thing by hand.

Benjamin wrote: "Yeah, Not going to visit England because of what they did to the Irish during the 1800s and early 1900s."

It's okay, most of us in Ireland don't hold a big grudge.


message 71: by Brandon (new)

Brandon The tour of part of the Bodleian at Oxford was wonderful and well worth the time.

It's probably a gross breach of etiquette to mention when originally talking about the Bodleian, but the library at Cambridge was impressive in its own right, had a guided tour, and had some marvelous works on display.


message 72: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie Walker I definitely have got to see this amazing place. Definitely on my bucket list!


message 73: by Hope (new)

Hope Oh wow, this place looks gorgeous. I'd love to step inside it at least once.


message 74: by James (new)

James Don't forget the Los Angeles Central Library!


message 75: by Jane (new)

Jane Vincent Christopher wrote: "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 ..."

D.G. wrote: "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."


You can visit on a tour. Just went in May.


message 76: by Jane (new)

Jane Vincent There are several tours per week. On Wednesday at 9:00 you can take the extended tour which I highly recommend.You'll get lots of history to appreciate more fully what you're seeing. The highlight of our visit to Oxford in May, only second to our bite to eat at The Inklings spot, The Eagle and Child.


message 77: by Brooke (new)

Brooke My absolute favorite place to study!


message 78: by Ellie (new)

Ellie Wilson You actually can't get into the Bodleian Library without being an Oxford graduate.


message 79: by Jefferson (new)

Jefferson You can pretty much only (meaningfully) enter the Bodleian Library if you are a "reader" or an Oxford U student or faculty member etc. I remember in 1994 in my tourist innocence trying to get in just to sneak a peek inside the famous place, and the guard man asked me in a haughty tone, "Ahh you a readah?" and I ignorantly answered, not having any idea what a "reader" was as he had used the term, "Yes, I love reading books." Unamused, he sent me packing. A couple years ago I returned officially as a "reader" (having gone through a rather laborious process of paperwork including a letter of reference from one of my university colleagues and a statement of my research plan) and could frequent the library freely for my six month stay in Oxford. If I remember correctly, even if you gain the right to access the library (and swear the cool oath that has you swearing not to "introduce fire" into the library), you cannot check any books out, but have to read them on site. . . The Bodleian is an amazing place and a book lover's must see spot, but it is not so user friendly, and is downright book-lover-tourist-visitor unfriendly (unless, perhaps, you join a tour, and even then I bet you'd be pretty limited as to what you can see or touch in the library). I suppose they must protect the sanctity and silence of the library for students and researchers, but still... The Ashmolean Museum, though, is a wonderful!


message 80: by Geraldine (new)

Geraldine Manchester Military History Society (MMHS) wrote: "We're also spoilt by having the John Rylands library as well.


I spent a lot of time in Sixth form and during Uni vacations (home from Nottingham) in Manchester Central Library. Although not quite as often in 6th form as my parents thought, especially between 2pm & 5pm on alternative Saturdays in Autumn and Winter!



message 81: by Geraldine (new)

Geraldine Tria wrote: "Benjamin wrote: "Yeah, Not going to visit England because of what they did to the Irish during the 1800s and early 1900s."

Wow. That's pretty impressive, refusing to visit an entire country becaus..."


Not sure what English people with Irish heritage are supposed to do - boycott my homeland because of what my unenfranchised poor English ancestors did to my comfortably off middle class Irish ancestors?


message 82: by Alyson (new)

Alyson Stone The fact that Harry Potter was filmed there made me fall in love even more.


message 83: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante I am amazed at the varying degrees of information here in regards to visiting the Bod, so I quickly did what I always do when confronted with conflicting information - I went to Dogpile!

Visiting the Bodleian Library -
http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson/...

Please choose from the following options:

Standard tours (Led by a guide. Duration one hour)
Extended tours (Led by a guide. Duration ninety minutes) Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays only. Tickets can be purchased online
Mini tours (Led by a guide. Duration thirty minutes)
Audio tours (Self guided. Duration forty minutes)
Divinity School visit (No guide. Duration: self timed)

This is garnered from the Library's own website (see above link). I guess they have the final say in this, after all! lol

Alot of good information on the page, too. Highly recommend a visit.


message 84: by Ana (new)

Ana Hello,

It is not quite a library, but is an exquesite book store in Portugal in the city of Porto.
http://www.360portugal.com/Distritos....

The architecture is neogothic style. It dates from the beginning of the 20th century.

The hole atmosphere of the building is mistic and magic.

No wonder Harry Potter did shop there for school items.


message 85: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Oxford the city is great for book shopping too!! A huge Blackwell's and also a book where everything is 2 pounds.


message 86: by Wastrel (last edited Jun 29, 2015 10:05AM) (new)

Wastrel NB. the blackwell's there contains the world's largest single-room display of books, and the largest room for selling books in europe. The Norrington Room - 10,000 square feet (enough for a luxury 9-bedroom house, apparently), 3 miles of shelves, over 160,000 books. Also sometimes used as a small theatre and music venue. Picture here


message 87: by Greg (new)

Greg Garrett I've spent months working at Gladstone's Library in Northern Wales, near Chester and Liverpool. It's a residential library--that is, you can spend the day in the stacks, have dinner in the dining room, and go up to your own room in the residential wing and read some more! I can't recommend it highly enough as an experience for booklovers, writers, and history buffs. The original collection belonged to Wm. Gladstone, the 4-time prime minister who lived in the small village of Hawarden.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-ga...


message 89: by Erma (new)

Erma Talamante Greg wrote: "I've spent months working at Gladstone's Library in Northern Wales, near Chester and Liverpool. It's a residential library--that is, you can spend the day in the stacks, have dinner in the dining r..."

This sounds like my idea of heaven!


message 90: by Ashli (new)

Ashli Barrera E. wrote: "Greg wrote: "I've spent months working at Gladstone's Library in Northern Wales, near Chester and Liverpool. It's a residential library--that is, you can spend the day..."


"This sounds like my idea of heaven!"


Same!


message 91: by Selene (new)

Selene Omg. I've heard about it but i never thought it would be that beautiful. Now i really need to see it


message 92: by Laura (new)

Laura Oh my gosh - it's what I imagine heaven will be for me!


message 93: by Lynne (new)

Lynne I'm pretty sure I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven if I got there! Good reasons and great photos!


message 94: by Michele (new)

Michele D.G. wrote: "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."


They regularly offer visitor tours.. (says the Oxford resident and frequenter of the Bod.)


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