We were fortunate enough to be able to do an organised tour of the library and School of Divinity. Normally I hate organised tours and prefer to just look myself, but this is not possible in such a place. We were also unable to take photographs inside the library but could take photographs inside the Divinity School and the outside Quadrangle. I have scanned a few inside shots of the library from my book though.
The Bodleian complex houses the library and the School of Divinity. The library was built as a Divinity School in the 15th century. Prior to that the first library was housed in the room above the Old Congregation House and begun in 1320. Divinity was considered the most important science at the time. In fact nobody could have a degree in any subject without passing in Divinity.
We visited Duke Humfrey’s Library. Originally a library of manuscripts only, it had a collection of scholastic and legal texts and a remarkable presentation of the Humanism of the Italian Renaissance. It was restored and brought back to magnificence by Thomas Bodley. Many of the books in this library are chained up as they are so valuable. The library is still used by scholars today, but obviously only with a special pass. I wish I could have taken photographs as it is impossible to explain what it was like. We were not able to get near the books but just looking and sensing the atmosphere was quite something, to me anyhow.
There are 8 million books in the Bodleian Library at present, and this includes the New Bodleian Library which in comparison is a nasty modern building. The oldest manuscript kept here is dated 527 BC. The first printed book is The Life of John the Baptist printed in 1599.
Oxford University examinations first took place in this School of Divinity. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The ceiling contains 455 bosses in which religious symbolism appears alongside monograms and shields commemorating benefactors and other persons associated with the building.
The Tower of the Five Orders. This is an impressive tower which today holds the archives of the University. It displays the five classical orders of architecture (starting at the bottom with the most ancient): Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.
The Statue is of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Chancellor of the University and Bodleian benefactor.
Around the quadrangle the doors still have painted over them names of the schools to which they formerly led. They represent the curriculum of the early 17th century. The seven Liberal Arts.
(The Trivium: Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric; and the Quadrivium; Arithmetic, Astronomy, Geometry, Music), the Philosophies, and Languages. Scholars had to study and pass in all of these subjects. No wonder there were some such brilliant minds in those times.
The Proscholium entrance
The Divinity School
Close-up of a Boss (scanned image)
Duke Humphrey's Library on the upper floor (scanned image)