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Rare Books: Children's literature

A guide to finding and using rare books in the Bodleian Library

Scope of the collections

The Library holds the Opie Collection, which was acquired in 1988 and contains approximately 20,000 children's books printed between the 16th and 20th centuries. Most of the collection has been reproduced on microfiche and readers are asked to use these in the first instance; microfiche have been published as: The Opie collection of children's literature (Ann Arbor : UMI, 1990-2004). The library also holds the working papers of Iona and Peter Opie as part of our archive collections. 

The majority of books for children were, and continue to be, acquired through legal deposit. A number of named early collections (such as Douce) also hold significant early children's books, and items can be located in the printed books catalogue available via SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online). 


Related collections

Below is a list of other archives held by the Library which include material relating to children's literature. In all instances, printed books can be located via SOLO, and more information on our archival holdings can be obtained by emailing

Children's writers: Archives and manuscript collections

  • Walter de la Mare
  • Alan Garner
  • Kenneth Grahame
  • Shirley Hughes (illustrator)
  • C.S.Lewis
  • C. Day-Lewis
  • John Masefield
  • Philip Pullman (one MS.)
  • Christian Rossetti [limited]
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The ‘Inklings’ (Charles Williams and Owen Barfield)
  • Maria Edgeworth
  • Jane Johnson
Science-fiction writers for teenagers and young adults:
  • Brain Aldiss
  • James Blish
  • Michael Moorcock

Exhibition Catalogues

'Children’: an exhibition to mark the year of the child (Bodleian Library, 1979)

Priestman, Judith (ed.) J.R.R. Tolkien : life and legend : an exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the birth of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) (Bodleian Library, 1992)

Early children's books in the Bodleian Library: An exhibition (Bodleian Library, 1995)

Magical tales: myth, legend & enchantment in children’s books,  ed. Carolyne Larrington & Diane Purkiss (Bodleian Library, 2013)

McIlwaine, Catherine Tolkein : maker of Middle-Earth (Bodleian Library, 2018)