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Queen's College Library

Address. High Street, Oxford OX1 4AW [Map]
Telephone. (01865) 27 91 30
Fax. (01865) 79 08 19
e-mail. [queenlib@ermine.ox.ac.uk]
Internet. http://www.queens.ox.ac.uk/library.html

Governing body or responsible institution. Queen's College
Function. College library.
Subjects. The library supports the undergraduate courses taught by the college.

Access. Access is strictly limited to current college members only. All others must apply in writing or via
e-mail. - Opening hours (Term): Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.; (Vacation): Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Special facilities. Photocopying, microfilming and photography through arrangement.
Travel directions. Coaches from Victoria Coach Station London to Oxford (Queen's Lane). C. 15 minutes' walk from Oxford Railway Station. - Parking is limited.


1.1 There has been a library at Queen's ever since the foundation of the College in 1340. The Upper Library was built in the late 17th century and remains one of the jewels of Oxford architecture. The collection has grown significantly over the past 300 years and the library is now one of the largest of any Oxford college with a circulating collection of around 40,000 vols and nearly 100,000 vols in the historical collection. The latter range from medieval manuscripts to modern press editions.

1.2 The first library was built soon after the college was founded. In the late 17th century a general re-building of the college began with the Williamson Building (designed by Christopher Wren) and the Upper Library. Of the early collections much has been lost during the Reformation by the depredations of John Bale and others. However, the collection of Queen's is one of the richest among the Oxford colleges. During the 17th and 18th centuries major benefactions to the library were given by Thomas Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln (1607-1691; mainly theology, church history, ecclesiastical law and 16th and 17th-century tracts), Sir Joseph Williamson (1633-1701; mainly law, history and science, including sets of English, French and Dutch proclamations), Sir John Floyer (1649-1734; mainly medicine and science), Theophilus Metcalfe (1690-1757; a collection strong in alchemical and chemical works as well as medicine), and many others.

1.3 In the 1840s, a donation of £30,000 was made by Robert Mason, an alumnus, on condition the whole sum was spent on books within three years. Until 1847 the Lower Library, designed by Charles Robert Cockerel, was built and a great number of books were purchased during that time, including a Shakespeare First Folio (once owned by David Garrick), an almost complete set of Aldines, and many colour-plate works on natural history, such as John James A. Audubon's Birds of America (London 1827-1838) and works on architecture, such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opere varie di architettura (Rome 1750). At that time the Librarian also aimed at assembling a representative selection of rare and valuable books.

1.4 In the following decades there was a steady stream of important benefactions including 8,000 vols on Slavonic languages from William Richard Morfill (1834-1909, Professor of Russian); over 1,000 books on Dante from Edward Moore (1864-1916, Principal of St. Edmund Hall) - both these collections are now on deposit in the Taylor Institution (see entry there); a large collection of theological pamphlets left by William Sanday (1843-1920, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church); incunabula and Chinese and Japanese art books from A. H. Sayce (1845-1933, Professor of Assyriology); an important Egyptology collection in memory of Thomas Eric Peet (1882-1934, an alumnus). There were also smaller collections from William Wordsworth's grandson, Thomas Hardy, and many other donors.

1.5 In the 1930s, concern for the size of the collection resulted in expansion into underground passages in the north and east sides of the back quadrangle; regrettably, a great number of books (chiefly on bibliography and travel) were sold or given away to relieve a severe lack of space. Undergraduates were admitted to the library for the first time in 1938. The collection continues to expand both through purchase and gifts including large numbers of volumes on American history and politics to support the needs of the Harmsworth Professor of American History (an annual fellowship still held by visiting American scholars).

1.6 In 1991 the idea of a new library extension was first considered by the college's governing body. Conditions reached a crisis point with no space left for modern books; the historical collections continue to deteriorate in the underground tunnels. There is a serious lack of reader space, little scope for incorporating modern technology and lack of proper working space for staff. Since 1997, an extensive review of the future of the library has been undertaken. Plans for a new modern, purpose-built two-storey underground extension have been approved by the governing body. The extension will resolve all of the long-standing problems and provide a major new facility for the college into the 21st century and beyond. Fund-raising has begun.


2.1 The printed books collection of Queen's College is one of the richest to be found among the Oxford colleges. The library stock totals c. 140,000 vols, c. 100,000 of which belong to the historical collection. There are 286 incunabula, and 2,552 STC books. Of the pre-1800 holdings a considerable percentage was printed on the continent. The exact number cannot be stated with any accuracy. Of the continental books works printed in Germany and related countries (including Basel and Strasbourg imprints) form about 20-30 per cent. Pre-1800 German-printed books are almost all in Latin.

The German Collections

2.2 Some manuscripts refer to Germaniana in passing (e.g. MS 302 (30) includes ``A manner and order of solemnity at the election of the king of the Romans, at Ratisbon [Regensburg], 1636'.) Among the 286 incunabula there are over 50 with German imprints. These include a number of rather early prints such as Cicero, De officiis (Cologne: Ulrich Zell c. 1465); Manilius, Astronomicon (Nuremberg, J. Müller 1473-1474); Boccaccio, De claris mulieribus (Ulm: Johann Zainer 1473); Biblia Latina (Strasbourg: Heinrich Eggestein c. 1466); Biblia Latina (Strasbourg: Johann Mentelin c. 1461); Johannes Balbus, Catholicon (Mainz: Johann Gutenberg 1460; the earliest incunable in the library); Virgil, Opera (Strasbourg: Johann Mentelin c. 1470); Hortus Sanitatis (Mainz: Jacob Meydenbach 1491). The holdings are, as might be expected, mainly theological with Bible editions, editions of the Church Fathers and medieval authors (Ambrosius, Augustinus, Bernard of Clairvaux), works of moral theology (Astenasus de Ast, Petrus Berchorius), sermons (Robertus Caracciolus) or liturgical works. There are also numerous examples of moral philosophy (Boethius), of classical literature (Latin or Greek), of contemporary literature (Boccaccio, Pope Pius II, Marsilius Ficinus), of history (Hartmann Schedel, Guido de Columna), travel literature (Bernhard von Breydenbach's Peregrinatio, Speyer 1490) or science. Astronomy is represented by Manilius (see above), medicine by Bartholomaeus Anglicus (De proprietatibus rerum, Basel c. 1470-1480).

2.3 Among the 16th- and 17th-century imprints there are various titles printed in Germany particularly in theology (including Reformation literature) and history. Some characteristic examples are Ludwig Varthema, Die Ritterlich und lobwurdig reiss (Strasbourg 1516); Petrus Pitatus, Almanach novum (Tübingen 1553); Nicolaus Rittershusius, Genealogiae imperatorum (Tübingen 1658) and Aristotle, Opera quae exstant (Frankfurt 1584-1587). (Titles are searchable on the Microsoft Access database by request.)

2.4 Among 18th and 19th-century imprints history and theology are well represented along with classics, Egyptology, philology and philosophy. Examples are Rosinus Lentilius, Iatromnemata theoretico-practica (Stuttgart 1712); Pope Clement XI, Opera omnia (Frankfurt 1729); Nicolaus Staphorst, Historia ecclesiae Hamburgensis diplomatica (Hamburg 1723-1731), as well as hundreds of 19th-century theological pamphlets. The collection includes a number of well-known series such as Jahresbericht über Classische Altertumswissenschaft, Preuss. Jahrbücher, Monumenta Germaniae historica and Bibliothek der Deutschen National-Literatur. Some items were given by Prof. Hermann Georg Fiedler (1862-1865) who was a fellow at the college.


3.1 Modern catalogues

Card catalogue [c.1938-1999]

Modern books catalogued onto Oxford University union catalogue (OLIS)

[online; http://www.lib.ox.ac.uk/olis]

Microsoft Access database of pre-1751 imprints with extensive provenance information compiled in 1999

Rhodes, Dennis E.: A catalogue of incunabula in all the libraries of Oxford University outside the Bodleian. Oxford 1982 [quotes Queen's College locations]

The incunables are recorded in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

3.2 Historic catalogues

Handlist [c. 1663]

Handlist [c. 1822]

Guardbooks compiled by Edward Edwards (the pioneer of public libraries), [c. 1870-1938]


4.1 Archival sources

Please contact the college archivist.

4.2 Publications

Magrath, J. R.: The Queen's College. Oxford 1921

Hodgkin, R. H.: Six centuries of an Oxford college. A history of The Queen's College, 1340-1940. Oxford, 1949

Morgan, Paul: The Queen's College. In: Oxford Libraries outside the Bodleian. A guide. Oxford 1974, pp. 105-110

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, p. 534

May 1999

Jonathan Bengtson