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Art and Architecture: Books

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library is the premier research library for the study of art, architecture and archaeology at Oxford. It incorporates multiple libraries previously housed in separate locations around the University.


The majority of books held by the Bodleian Libraries, in both physical and electronic formats, can be searched via SOLO. On this page you will find recommended books, guidance on how to search for and access print and ebooks, and libraries in the University that might be relevant for your studies and research.

Physical books

Use the tabs above to explore the principal Oxford libraries for students of Art and Architecture. Access to collections and borrowing privileges are subject to conditions; please check individual library websites for further information.

Help with books

For those wishing to learn more about searching for physical collections in Oxford, we recommend the following:

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library is Oxford University's principal library for Art and Architecture books. It contains materials for taught and research courses, with multiple copies of frequently used titles available. Readers can browse Western Art and Architecture - principally held on the 2nd floor - and Eastern Art and Architecture on the 3rd floor.
Less frequently used books are held offsite and need to be requested to a reading room via SOLO.

Browsing the library's print collections can help you find relevant resources as the books are shelved in subject order, so you'll find related books shelved together.

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library's Art and Architecture collections use a combination of different classification systems across the 2nd and 3rd floors. A large section of each floor uses the Library of Congress Classification (LC) system. This system combines different letters and numbers to identify and arrange books according to their content. The most common shelfmarks in the Art & Architecture class begin with 'N', which is the fine arts section. 

Within this 'N' class, there are subclasses which are tailored to each type of fine arts. See the following:

- Visual Arts

NA - Architecture

NB - Sculpture

NC - Drawing. Design. Illustration.

ND - Painting

NE - Print Media

NK - Decorative arts

NX - Arts in General

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library also has a collection of books under the 'T' class (technology), principally:

TR - Photography

TS - Manufactures

An example of an LC shelfmark in the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library is NB497.H4 C87 CUR 2013 - Barbara Hepworth by Penelope Curtis. Hepworth was a sculptor, and therefore books which document her work can be found under NB. 

Books using LC on the 3rd floor will also have a pink sticker on them with the number '3', so you can tell the difference between our Eastern and Western Art and Architecture books. 

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library also uses a selection of In-house classification systems. You can find a summary of the call numbers/ shelfmarks and collections used by each floor by the staircases and lifts.

Readers can navigate the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library stacks by using its interactive floorplans. You can find the floor/shelf location of a book by searching its shelfmark/ call number. Here, the map will indicate the location of your book.

A number of other libraries may be of relevance to those studying Art and Architecture.

  • Balfour LibraryThis library is attached to the Pitt Rivers Museum, and also functions as the teaching and research library of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. While there are some overlaps, its holdings on anthropology, ethnography and art history mostly cover cultural groups and geographical areas not addressed by the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World’s collections.
  • The Continuing Education Library collects in support of the many art and architecture courses taught at the Continuing Education Department.
  • The Ruskin School of Art Library has a small but good collection of key catalogues, texts and periodicals on the history of art (drawing, colour, perception and perspective) and especially modern and contemporary art.
  • The Taylor Institution Research Collections include the Strachan Collection of 19th and 20th century livres d’artiste. (See French livres d’artiste in Oxford University collections [Oxford, 1987].) The library holds important texts by writers (mostly French) on art and travel. Publications on literary/art movements such as Futurism, Surrealism and Symbolism are extensively collected. The Taylor collects in support of the film studies programme. The Sir Robert Taylor Collection, the 18th century architect with whom the institution originated, comprises a small collection of original drawings and illustrated architecture books. (See David Gilson. Books from the library of Sir Robert Taylor in the library of the Taylor Institution, Oxford [Oxford, 1973].)
  • Worcester College Architectural Library, Drawings and Print collections: The College has an important collection of architectural drawings by Inigo Jones, Nicholas Hawksmoor and others, which came from the bequest of George Clarke (1660-1736). (See John Harris and A.A. Tait. Catalogue of the drawings by Inigo Jones, John Webb and Isaac de Caus at Worcester College, Oxford [Oxford, 1979].) Some later drawings by William Burges and others also form part of the collection. Researchers should make an appointment. Worcester's George Clark Print Collection may be searched online. If not available at the Bodleian or the Art, Archaeology and Ancient World, titles in the Cyril Eland Collection of Architectural Books may be consulted by members of the university; an appointment is necessary.

Electronic books (ebooks)

The following list is a sample of multi-volume ebook platforms. These have a strong focus on key art - and architecture - related topics. Members of Oxford University are able to access them for free because of institutional subscriptions to the content (or they are available Open Access). For the former, you will need your Oxford Single Sign On to access the collections if you are not on the University network.

We recommend visiting Databases A-Z for comprehensive information on eresource packages, including trials and new arrivals, available to Oxford University members.

Recommend a book

If the Bodleian Libraries don't have the print or ebook you are looking for, you can make a recommendation by completing the form below (Oxford Single-Sign On required).

Inter-library loans

If the Bodleian Libraries don't have the book you are looking for, we may be able to source it through Oxford's inter-library loan service.

Why are some books not available electronically?

There are a number of reasons why the Bodleian Libraries may be unable to provide electronic access to a resource. The ebooks guide explains some of these reasons: