Cambridge University Library

Cambridge University Library

The Cambridge University Library is the centrally-administered library of the University of Cambridge in England. It comprises five separate libraries:
* the University Library main building
* the Medical Library
* the Betty and Gordon Moore Library (Centre for Mathematical Sciences)
* the Central Science Library (formerly the Scientific Periodicals Library)
* the Squire Law Library. The Library was housed in the university's "Old Schools" near Senate House until it outgrew the space there and a new library was built. The large site on the western edge of Cambridge city centre is now between Robinson College and Memorial Court, Clare College. The current librarian is Peter Fox.


The library was built between 1931 and 1934 under architect Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed the neighbouring Clare Memorial Court (part of Clare College). It bears a marked resemblance to Scott's industrial architecture, a famous example of which is Bankside Power Station (the home of the Tate Modern). Its tower stands 157 feet (48 metres) tall, six feet shorter than the top of St John's College Chapel and ten feet taller than the peak of King's College Chapel. Contemporary reports stated that in opening the building, Chamberlain referred to it as "this magnificent erection", although this phrase is also attributed by tradition to George V. The fictional "Dark Tower" in the novel of that name (attributed to C. S. Lewis) was a replica of this building.

The library has been extended several times. The main building houses the Japanese and Chinese collections in the Aoi pavilion, an extension donated by Tadao Aoi and opened in 1998. There are over 5.5 million books and pamphlets in the library, more than 1.2 million periodicals, many maps, manuscripts, and specialist [ collections] including that of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Legal deposit library

As a legal deposit library, it is entitled to claim without charge a copy of all books, journals, printed maps and music published in Britain and Ireland. The library is open to all members of the University of Cambridge (although undergraduates in their first two years and University Assistants other than those who work at the library cannot borrow any books). As is traditional amongst British university libraries, research postgraduates and academics from other UK universities are allowed reference-only access to the library's collection, and members of the public can apply for access with an academical letter of introduction and on payment of a fee. The library is unique amongst the UK's legal deposit libraries in keeping a large proportion of its books on open access and in allowing some categories of reader (for example Cambridge academics, postgraduates and final-year undergraduates) to borrow from its collection. It has a well-used "Tea Room" in which full meals, snacks and beverages are available. The library regularly puts on [ exhibitions] , usually free to the public, and featuring items from its collections.

pecial collections

As part of its collection of more than 7,000,000 volumes, the library contains a wealth of printed and manuscript material from down the centuries [] . These include:

* A copy of the Gutenberg Bible from 1455, the earliest European example of a book produced using moveable type.

*Library of Lord Acton, Catholic historian and Regius Professor of Modern History in 1885–1902. The extensive library (around 60,000 volumes) collected by Lord Acton for research was bequeathed to the University Library on his death. The collection contains books from the 15th to 19th centuries, with emphasis on European history and church history. Many of the books contain annotations in Lord Acton's own hand.

*An archive of Charles Darwin's correspondence and books from his working library (including copies of his own works).

*The Hanson collection, containing important books on navigation and shipbuilding, as well as maritime atlases, some dating from the 16th century.

*The Bradshaw collection, containing more than 14,000 books relating to Ireland, printed in Ireland, or written by Irish authors. This is one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. At present, the emphasis is on books printed in Ireland before 1850.

*The library of the typographer Stanley Morison, who had close links with Cambridge University Press.

*"The Royal Library," actually a very important collection of more than 30,000 books assembled by John Moore (1646–1714), Bishop of Ely. The collection was bequeathed to the University Library by George I in 1715, hence the name.

*The library of the Royal Commonwealth Society, containing books, periodicals, pamphlets, photographs and manuscripts relating to the British Empire and the Commonwealth.

*The Bible Society library and the library of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK).

*The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection, a store of 140,000 manuscripts and manuscript fragments, mainly in Hebrew and Arabic, from the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo.

*E.G. Browne's collection of around 480 codices in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish.

*Papers of Isaac Newton, Lord Kelvin, Ernest Rutherford, George Gabriel Stokes, Joseph Needham, G. E. Moore and Siegfried Sassoon, among others.

*Archives of the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

*Material, such as newsletters, relating to various student societies.


*Peter Fox (ed.) "Cambridge University Library: the Great Collections" (Cambridge University Press, 1998) ISBN 0-521-62636-6 (Paperback ISBN 0-521-62647-1)

External links

* [ Cambridge University Library]
* [ Search the library catalogue]

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