The collections at the Bodleian Libraries 

The Bodleian Library has been acquiring items for over 400 years from across the globe, and the current collections reflect their varied subjects and provenance. Of the 13 million items held by the Bodleian Libraries, over one million can be categorized as 'special collections'.

Special collections in the Bodleian Libraries comprise manuscripts and archives, rare books, printed ephemera, maps, music and digitized collections in libraries across Oxford. The largest concentration of special collections can be found in the Weston Library.

Discover the Bodleian's collection 

A gold horizontal flourish
A medieval Islamic map showing the eastern hemisphere


The map department has an extensive range of books on cartography and geographic information systems, as well as atlases, journals, gazetteers and other reference works. It is one of the ten largest collections of maps in the world, with in excess of 1.25 million sheets and 20,000 atlases. Well known items include the Gough Map of Great Britain and the Sheldon Tapestry Map of Gloucestershire.

More information about the Map Department


Section of a handwritten manuscript

Manuscripts and archives

The Bodleian Libraries holds the second largest collection of manuscripts and archives in Britain, with items ranging in date from papyri from the third century B.C. to contemporary correspondence and papers.

Explore the Bodleian's special collections


Black-and-white art of an early printing press

Rare Books

The Bodleian's Rare Books holdings reflect its history as the library of the University of Oxford since 1602, with strengths in theology, law, the classical tradition, and mathematics. The libraries also holds important collections of antiquarian and modern children's books, popular literature and ephemera.

The Bodleian houses the largest collection of pre-1500 printed books in a university library, and the fifth-largest collection of incunabula in any library in the world: 5,623 editions in 6,755 copies.

Read more about Rare Books at the Bodleian


Hand written sheet music


The Music Collections of the Bodleian Library comprise about 500,000 items of printed music, 60,000 books and periodicals, 3,500 music manuscripts, and 1,000 microfilms, making it the second largest music research library in Great Britain. The Music Faculty Library holds the main collection of sound recordings in the University.

Further information about the Music Collection


Black-and-white image of person on early bicycle

Printed ephemera

The Libraries' collection of printed ephemera is known as The John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, and is one of the largest and most important collections of printed ephemera in the world. It offers a fresh view of British history through primary, uninterpreted printed documents which include advertisements, handbills, playbills and programmes, menus, greetings cards, posters and postcards. It mostly covers from the 18th to early-20th centuries, but also contains earlier material.

Search the John Johnson Collection

Further collections to explore

A gold horizontal flourish