The Exhibition

When Sir Thomas Bodley re-founded the University Library at the beginning of the 17th century, he asked that a cabinet be reserved for items that were ‘most singular and rare’. One of the Bodleian’s early librarians also requested that the ‘strength and flower’ of the collections should be kept in a separate space, where it could be shown to visitors.

What is it that makes a particular book or manuscript special from a collection of several million items at the Bodleian today? What makes it a ‘treasure’? It may be its age, rarity or beauty; it may be of great scholarly importance, or have the ability to provoke strong emotions, or simply be an accidental survival, a curiosity.

Download the Treasures of the Bodleian exhibition guide

Join the Treasures debate

Over the next three years the New Bodleian Library on Broad Street, Oxford, will undergo major renovation and redevelopment. In 2015 it will reopen as the Weston Library, and selections of the Bodleian’s greatest treasures will be on display in a dedicated gallery. Choosing to display one type of treasure over another is a subjective business and Treasures of the Bodleian gave us a chance to rehearse for this new space, bringing together a collection of items that our experts believed deserved the label. Although the physical exhibition is now close, you can still use the voting buttons and comment areas on this website to help us define what makes a ‘treasure’? What do you think of the items we are showing here? What would you like to see displayed in the reopened Weston Library? We look forward to hearing from you.

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The Exhibition

The exhibition is now closed at the Bodleian. 

To find out about what is currently on offer to visitors at the Bodleian, please see our visitor information pages.

Treasures exhibition lectures

We offered a series of free lunchtime lectures at the Bodleian in Oxford during October and November 2011.