The rare books holdings of the Bodleian Library reflect its history as the library of the University of Oxford since 1602, with strengths in theology, law, the classical tradition, and mathematics — although almost all subjects and genres are represented somewhere.
The index of named collections gives brief details of the collections containing early printed books in the Bodleian, and includes provenance details for all of our major collections. It is adapted and expanded from Karen Attar (ed.), A directory of rare book and special collections in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, 3rd edition (London: Facet, 2016). The Bodleian's manuscripts team maintains a list of their own named collections here and a searchable index of owners of 15th century books in the Bodleian's collection can be found on Bod-Inc here.
Many printed rare book collections bear shelfmarks (often abbreviated) derived from the following sources:
Names of former owners or libraries whose books have been acquired and are still kept together as separate collections, e.g. Douce, Broxbourne, Opie.
Descriptions of categories of books grouped by subject matter, e.g. Art. [Artes], Bib. [Bible Collection], etc.
Groups having a common origin: e.g. Don. [Donations], Diss. [Dissertations], Inc. [Incunabula], etc.
Early books can also be found in the main historic classification schemes (e.g. Old Class, Nicholson, Year Books, etc.) with numeric shelfmarks usually indicating subject area. While these schemes are no longer added to, Nicholson in particular provides access to printed acquisitions made between 1883 and 1988 for items lacking subjects in the main SOLO record. For more information please see: Michael Heaney. The Bodleian Classification of Books. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, October 1978, 10: p.274-282. A copy of the scheme is available from Rare Books.
The printed literary collections of the Bodleian have been greatly enhanced over the centuries by bequests and donations including, but not limited to:
The Library is particularly strong in the fields of early mathematics, astronomy, physics and medicine. During the 19th Century, the Library made every effort to expand it's holdings in all areas of science and technology through legal deposit. Collections particularly strong in these areas include: