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Building a library without walls: the early years of the Bodleian Library

This project represents phase two of the work being done at CELL on Thomas Bodley, and focuses on the early shelves of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

The project concentrates on the early donations to and acquisitions of the Library up to the year 1605, tracing shelf marks and locations of books, as well as examining provenance markers in books which arrived at the library directly from benefactors. This project captures a sample of the library as it stood in 1605, the date by which Duke Humfrey’s Library was refurbished and extended, and the new systems of cataloguing implemented by Bodley and his Librarian, Thomas James. The information accumulated during the data-collection stage will enumerate key bibliographical information about the Library’s early collection.

The initial primary output from the dataset will be a resource map of the network of bibliographical agents and books which are active in the Library in 1605 -1620, and traces the movement (or not) of books over the period 1600-1620. The data draws on the earliest administrative records of the Bodleian, and interrogates the cataloguing and list-making activity of the Library staff. The editor of this project is Robyn Adams. The technical framework is designed and maintained by Matthew Symonds. Additional support is given by Louisiane Ferlier, Jaap Geraerts, Jan Broadway, Kristof Smeyers and Lucy Stagg.

Our initial findings have been published in Libraries, Books and Collectors of Texts, 1660-1800 (Routledge, 2018), entitled ‘Building a Library Without Walls: the Early Years of the Bodleian Library’ (co-authored with Dr Louisiane Ferlier). Data from this project is available at our GitHub repo. An illustrative sample of some simple findings from the data can be found as a Shiny app here.