The Bodleian Library is not one library but many, housed in buildings spread all over the city of Oxford. The historic core of the Bodleian is located around Radcliffe Square, however, with the oldest parts being the magnificent Duke Humphrey's Library (1488), and the Divinity School.
The Bodleian buildings began in 1613, at the bequest of former Oxford student Thomas Bodley. It is now the second largest library in the UK (after the British Library in London). The Bodleian receives a copy of every new book printed in Britain, a practice that began in 1610, so that the library contains an unrivaled 400 year record of British literature.
The Bodleian is unique in that it is not a lending library - no books can be borrowed, only read on the premises. The Bodleian takes this restriction seriously; in a famous case, King Charles I was refused permission to borrow a book.
The general public cannot enter the reading rooms; that right is reserved for members. Other parts of the library can be seen on one of the frequent guided tours. One of the highlights of these tours is the Divinity School, which possesses a remarkable vaulted ceiling. It is rightly regarded as a masterpiece of English Gothic architecture.
Open weekdays 0900-1700, Saturdays 0900-1230
Access beside the Sheldonian Theatre, off Broad Street, or from the Bodleian Library
Usually open daily: Monday Friday 9.00 – 17.00, Saturday 9.00 – 16.30, Sunday 11.00-17.00. Access off Catte Street.