Interiors: Duke Humfrey’s Library, part of the Bodelian Library, Oxford, UK.

duke humfreys library by david iliff

This magnificent reading room is the oldest part of what is now known as the Bodelian Library, itself one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It’s the intellectual centerpiece of Oxford University. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named for the Humfrey, the Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of King Henry IV of England. Humfrey amassed a large collection of books and manuscripts, most of them translations of Greek and Roman texts. When he died in 1447 he donated his collection to Oxford University, who then had this library built to house them. On November 8, 1602, 413 years ago today, this and other parts of Oxford’s holdings were officially consolidated as the Bodelian Library, which is now the second-largest holder of books in Britain after the British Library (which I also profiled in this series). As reading rooms go this is one of the coolest ones in the world–imagine…

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