The Queen's College

Manuscripts, printed books and architectural plans from the library at The Queen's College, Oxford.

There has been a library at Queen’s since its foundation in 1341 by Robert Eglesfield, Chaplain to Queen Philippa, consort of Edward III. The present Upper Library was built between 1692 and 1695 to house large donations from Thomas Barlow, one-time Provost of the College and later Bishop of Lincoln, and from Sir Joseph Williamson.

The Queen’s College collection is set apart from all other Oxford college libraries thanks to a donation of £30,000 in 1841 by Robert Mason, an Old Member, who stipulated in his will that the money had to be spent solely on the Library within three years. In order to accommodate the large number of volumes purchased with Mason’s bequest, the open arcade below the Upper Library was enclosed (following the designs of Charles Robert Cockerell, professor of architecture at the Royal Academy) to form what is now the Lower Library. The Librarian of the time showed exceptional foresight: he not only purchased a great number of modern books, but also a wide selection of the greatest editions of printed books from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. By the late 1840s Queen’s had what was probably the richest college library collection in the country.

Since joining Digital Bodleian, we have been able to highlight some of the items that lend our collection their richness, including a rare surviving copy of Miles Coverdale’s Goostly Psalmes and Spirituall Songes and three manuscripts once owned by Henry VIII.