Thursday, 23 July 2009

Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Slideshow of Oxford University

July 23: To get to Oxford, we took the train from Paddington Station. Perfect photo-op with the famous British children's character, Paddington Bear!

Paddington Bear

The Bodleian Library

LIS group at Oxford University

Our tour started in the Divinity School, a theology school built in 1427. The architecture has an elaborate, Gothic style. The symbols in the architecture represent Christian theology, such as the open book. The Divinity School at Oxford was used for the Infirmary and Dance lesson scenes in the Harry Potter films.

Divinity School

photo from
Hogwarts Infirmary

Duke Humfrey gifted manuscripts to start the library collection in the 15th Century. Duke Humfrey’s Library was constructed over the Divinity School and opened in 1488. The Sir Thomas Bodley copyright agreement of 1610 says the library shall receive a copy of all books printed in Britain and Ireland. The materials at the Bodleian Library are housed in closed stacks and do not circulate. In the past, readers had to purchase a catalogue to search the books, an effort to raise money for the library. To provide extra storage space an underground book store was excavated in 1912; it was at the time the largest such store in the world, and the first to use modern compact shelving. Today the collection holds eight million books. It is the second largest research library in England, the largest is the British Library.

Our group toured the tunnel that is used for the conveyor belt and tracks. We saw the movable stacks. We also toured the Upper Reading Room, Lower Reading Room and Duke Humfrey’s Library. The Duke Humfrey’s Library is for Graduate students only. Duke Humfrey’s Library is the film location for the library scenes in the Harry Potter films.

school library at Hogwarts, photo from
photo from

Of special interest to me at the Bodleian Library is the Opie Collection of Children's Literature, acquired in 1988. The collection contains 20,000 examples of children's literature, mainly British, ranging in date from the 16th to the 20th century, including 800 18th century books. It was amassed by Peter & Iona Opie, authors of numerous books on children's nursery rhymes, stories and games including The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. I did not get to see this rich collection of Victorian children’s books because it is not open to the public. I did see some references to the collection around the library including a plaque and some great artwork in the Bodleian shop.

photo from

postcard of Opie Collection of Children's Literature

Memorable quote: The Bodleian Oath
On seeking admission to the Bodleian Library, every reader is required to repeat aloud the traditional declaration:
"I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; nor to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."

Memorable quote: our tour guide’s husband attended Oxford, and then Harvard at the same time Barack Obama Sr. was attending Harvard. She emphasized the importance of education!

I loved the old library smell at Oxford University! The Bodleian Shop had some excellent literary items. I picked up a book for my mother on fall of the Berlin Wall by Oxford University Press.

After the Bodleian Library, I sought out New College to find the cloisters used in the Harry Potter films. New College was founded in 14th Century to educate priests after the plague known as the Black Death had killed one third of England’s population. The cloisters were completed in 1400. The New College cloisters is the only one in England that is completely enclosed for meditation and reflections. The cloisters at New College at Oxford University were used in Goblet of Fire in the scene where Mad Eye Moody turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret. The massive tree seen in this scene is a 140-year-old Evergreen Holm Oak.

Harry Potter film location

photo from
The Ferret Scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Some of the Hogwarts corridors were also filmed at New College cloisters.

film location Hogwarts corridors

New College cloisters

Next I went to Christ Church College and Cathedral to see more Harry Potter sites! In 1546, Henry VIII designated Christ Church College as a cathedral, which in turn established Oxford as an official city. The Christ Church College Dining hall inspired the set of the Great Hall.

Dining hall that inspired Great Hall of Harry Potter

photo from Children's BBC
Great Hall in Harry Potter movies, photo from Children's BBC

The grand staircase that leads to the dining hall is used as the entry staircase to Hogwarts where McGonagall greets the first years before the sorting hat ceremony.

grand staircase used in Harry Potter films

photo from

Being a Harry Potter fan site has certainly increased the number of visitors to Christ Church College. The college has been open to visitors since the late 1930's and usually received 500 visitors a day. Once the Harry Potter movies were released, visitors have increased to 5,000-6,000 a day.

The college also has a rich literary history. Lewis Carroll was a mathematics tutor at Christ Church in the late 1800s. He used to tell tales to the Dean's daughter Alice, which inspired Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Many of the characters in the book were inspired by Christ Church people and objects. The Dining Hall has many connections with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. One stained glass window shows portraits of Alice and creatures from the book.

The brass 'firedogs' have long necks: Alice's neck grows long in the story.

long brass neck, inspiration for Alice in Wonderland

The White Rabbit was based on Alice's father the Dean. He left dinner every night down a narrow spiral stair behind the raised 'High End Table' (behind the panelled door, far left)- hence the rabbit hole in the book.

hidden corner door, inspiration for rabbit hole

Above the High Table there is a large portrait of the college's founder King Henry VIII, who famously executed two of his wives. In Alice's adventures, the Red Queen continually shouts "off with her head!"

King Henry VIII

Lewis Carroll worked in the library and often watched a cat called 'Dinah' in the large chestnut tree. It belonged to the Dean's daughter Alice, who could also be seen playing in the garden below. 'Dinah' became the Cheshire-Cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

tree of the Chesire-Cat

After a full day of chasing Harry Potter in Oxford, we caught the train back to London. I'm always anxious to get back to London and spend time with my new friends here.

Pictures of Oxford University

1 comment:

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