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Photographer's Note

What is shown here is part of Old Schools Quadrangle on the west face.

Behind this statue is the glass doors of Old Bodleian Library entrance in which you enter the Proscholium and then gain access to the Divinity School where all tours start.

Thomas Bodley was born in Exeter, Devon, in March 1545, into a strict Protestant family who fled to Germany and then to Switzerland

He worked as a diplomat in the service of Elizabeth I, and then, after his retirement, set himself the task of restoring a fifteenth century university library.

Duke Humfrey's Library, a fifteenth century University library, had been built above the Divinity School (off Catte Street, behind the Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street) and had been emptied of books and furniture during the Reformation in the 1550's.

Bodley felt that the University should have a fine library once again, and refurbished Duke Humfrey's, taking inspiration from the recently refitted library at his old college, Merton. The work did not always progress as fast as he wished, and he was irked by the workmen, calling them "idle rabble".

The opening ceremony took place in 1602, and at that time the library contained around 2,500 books, some given by Bodley himself, and others by benefactors such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Philip Sidney. Patrons gave both books and money, as Bodley was a successful fundraiser - he prided himself on being well able to "stirre up other mens benevolence".

At first he did not want any books in English in his library - he referred to them as idle books and riff raff - but he soon realised that more and more publications were in English rather than Latin, and in 1610, he applied to the Stationers Company in London to be able to receive one copy of every book published in England.

The library thus became a copyright or legal deposit library, the first of its kind in the British Isles.

Bodley had vigorously involved himself in the planning of this, but sadly never saw construction begin: he died in March 1613, and the foundation stone was laid the day after his funeral

The plaque above the doors that lead to the Divinity School bears the inscription "Quod feliciter vortat" and this wish that things might turn out happily for the library has been fulfilled.

Known to many Oxford scholars simply as ‘the Bod’, these buildings are still used by students and scholars from all over the world, and they attract an ever-increasing number of visitors.

The initial:
QUOD FELICITER VORTAT ACADEMICI OXONIENSIS BIBLIOTHECAM HANC VOBIS REIPUBLICAEQUE LITERATORUM T(HOMAS). B(ODLEY). P(OSUIT).

means

Academicians of Oxford! Thomas Bodley has built this library for you and for the Republic of the Learned. May the gift turn out well

Cheers,
Ralf

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Additional Photos by Ralf Lai (kim_gwan) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 99 W: 0 N: 368] (1142)
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