Oxford, the city of gleaming spires
Travelling to England during the July school holidays I was fortunate to meet up with a friend in the city of Oxford. Oxford’s main claim to fame is its university. It is the oldest university in the English speaking world & one of the most prestigious. My friend, as an alumnus (graduate), was able to give me an insider’s tour into the colleges that comprise the university. I peeked into quadrangles, dining halls, chapels & gardens which are normally the preserve of the students only.
Oxford University has the largest library system in the United Kingdom. Every week over 5000 items of material printed in the UK are delivered to the university, for inclusion in its collection. The library is so extensive that it has had to build underground vaults to house all the materials it has & continues to collect. The Bodleian library (fondly known as ‘the Bod’), is the most famous of the university’s libraries. It has a policy of being a reference/reading only library; no materials are loaned out. Interestingly, even King Charles I when he requested to borrow a book on French history in 1645, was refused. The librarian at the time, John Rouse proved a most determined guardian of the library’s resources.
All users of the library were required to take an oath of honour (in Latin) that they would not mark or injure any document or object belonging to the library, nor “kindle therein any fire or flame”. Some of the most beautiful buildings in Oxford are part of the Bodleian Library including the circular Radcliffe Camera & the interiors of the Divinity School. The original library space has medieval shelving & the later 18th century vertical shelving that we are accustomed to. The ceiling is decorated with the coats of arms of the distinguished benefactors of the library. The internal quadrangle of the original library has several doors dotted around it, most of which have latin names according to the field of study. I was lucky to find my particular subject, ‘Schola Musicae’.
The treasures of the Bodleian Library include William Shakespeare’s “First Folio” published in 1623. This is a collection of the bard’s first 36 plays, some of which may have been lost to us without this particular edition.
Oxford has a cornucopia of interesting things to see & do. Hopefully, you may be able visit one day or even aspire to study at this beautiful & famous university.