November 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

5 Facts You Might Not Know About the Bodleian Library

Bodleianalia.jpgIn the new book, Bodleianalia --one of the five titles we listed in our holiday gift guide this year--authors Claire Cock-Starkey and Violet Moller offer a volume chock-full of interesting tidbits about Britain's oldest university library. Here are 5 facts to give you a flavor of the fun that awaits.

1. The chains were removed from the library's books in 1757. "Nathaniel Bull, a blacksmith, unchained 1,448 volumes between 1760 and 1761 and for this was paid £3 0s 4d."

2. Library users must take an 'oath of fidelity,' promising "not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it..."

3. The Library bought its copy of the Gutenberg Bible in 1793 for £100 (1/5 of the library's book budget that year).

4. It was the 13th librarian, E.W.B. Nicholson who introduced the "Phi" collection for obscene and libelous works, and getting access to it wasn't easy: "By 1912 the system had been formalized to the extent that undergraduates had to secure written permission from a tutor in order to consult anything in the Phi collection and no boys (the young men employed to retrieve books) were allowed to fetch anything in the collection."

5. The Bodleian has an exceptional collection of ... pins. Yes, mainly pins retrieved from manuscripts and books from the days before staples and paper clips. Its most distinguished pin, acquired in 2011, belonged to Jane Austen, who used it within her manuscript of "The Watsons."

                                                                                                                                                                               Image Courtesy of University of Chicago Press.