Rare Books

About the collection

A book display in the Old Library

Hertford Library’s historic collection includes books from the 15th century onwards, including a small number incunabula – which means books printed before 1501 in Europe. The majority of our antiquarian collection dates from the seventeenth and eighteenth century and comes from the Library of Magdalen Hall, Hertford College’s predecessor. Henry Wilkinson, Magdalen Hall’s principal in the 1650s, funded the building of a library and encouraged donations of books and money to build the collection. We still have the benefactors book that recorded these gifts and can match the entries to items in the collection. Our collection represents a wide array of academic subjects, with strong sections on geography, history and philosophy. However, we also have many theological, grammatical, linguistic, astronomical, scientific and medical works.

Our catalogue

A small amount of our collection is catalogued online in the English Short Title Catalogue and in the Oxford libraries catalogue SOLO.  At the moment we are creating a basic electronic version of our printed catalogue. This will allow us to manage and research the collection more effectively in preparation for creating out full level online records with copy specific notes. A detailed online catalogue of our material would permit researchers from across the world to discover what we hold.

A repair to an old book

How do we care for our collection?

We have a dedicated team of NADFAS (Nation Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) volunteers, who visit the Library each week to clean and conserve the collection.  Our team carry out minor repairs and record all treatment given to books. A small number of items are send out for professional conservation and repair each year thanks to our donors.

Who can use our collection?

Students using the collection

Our collection is open by appointment to researchers and students. To make an appointment please contact the Librarian via library [at] hertford [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk or by calling 01865 279409.

We organise regular themed displays using works from the Library – an online version of our 40th anniversary of coeducation display is available at http://bit.ly/intothemix. Our collections are used by Hertford’s own students and staff in teaching and for individual research.

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