The Fellows’ Library at Jesus College is a fine 17th-century room which holds the College’s 11,500 early printed books.
This glorious, galleried room was built in 1676-77 as a freestanding block by Principal John Lloyd and later incorporated into the College’s Second Quad. The bookcases are decorated with strapwork dating from around 1628, originally from the College’s first library. The Fellows’ Library underwent a complete renovation and refurbishment in 2008, following a fundraising appeal.
The Library is home to many rare books, including a 1545 Greek Bible (presented by Principal Mansell) with the signatures of Philip Melanchthon and other 16th-century Reformers; a collection of atlases by Mercator and others; and first editions of Harvey’s De Motu Cordis (1628) and Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687).
The film below, presented by our Librarian Owen McKnight, Senior Research Fellow Professor Sue Doran and Helen Morag Fellow Professor Paulina Kewes, explains more about the Fellows’ Library and showcases some of its treasures.
Much of the collection arrived in the form of generous benefactions from Old Members and patrons, rather than through purchase. It is a process which continues to this day with the occasional addition of items directly relevant to Jesus College and its history, together with gifts of publications by Old Members and Fellows, exemplified by the typed original of T.E. Lawrence’s thesis on Crusader castles.
Our College Librarian is Owen McKnight, who can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (01865) 279704. The Librarian is available (in the Meyricke Library) to help readers Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Fellow Librarian is Professor Dirk Van Hulle. For filming enquiries, please contact the Director of Accommodation, Catering, and Conferences.
Approximately 80% of the books have been catalogued on SOLO, the library catalogue covering the majority of the library collections of the University of Oxford, and a short-title list of the remaining uncatalogued books is available.
The Bodleian Libraries offer advice on searching for early printed books on SOLO. For English books printed before 1801, you may prefer to search the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). Our 46 incunables (books printed anywhere before 1501) are listed on the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) and Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI).
To make an appointment to consult a book from the Fellows’ Library, please contact the Librarian well in advance of travelling to Oxford. Capacity for external readers is limited and so you may be redirected to the Bodleian unless you have a specific need to see the copy of a book at Jesus College. Note that the Fellows’ Library is reached by twenty stairs: we can offer alternative arrangements for consulting books on request. Eduroam Wi-Fi is available and photography is permitted.
Current members of College are invited to open days throughout the year. Old Members wishing to visit the Fellows’ Library should contact the Development Office.
Readers with disabilities are invited to contact the Librarian to discuss support in using the Library. A guide to access to the College buildings is available on the main College website. In particular, the Fellows’ Library is reached by four flights of five steps: we can offer alternative arrangements for consulting books on request.
You may reuse digital images from the Libraries’ collections, in particular images hosted on Digital Bodleian, under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) licence, unless otherwise stated. Please include the permalink and an appropriate citation. You do not need to request permission, but in case of enquiries, please contact email@example.com
Researchers consulting Jesus College manuscripts in the Weston Library may take photographs for the purposes of private research and study according to the Bodleian Libraries’ regulations, provided that copyright and/or publication right in the images is assigned to the College; we will then apply a Creative Commons licence enabling you to reuse the images. The same condition applies for photographs of early printed books in the Fellows’ Library.
Photographs of provenance evidence in the Fellows’ Library, including bookplates and marginalia, are available on Flickr. Summaries of the characteristic markings of five seventeenth-century donors are presented below; each also has an entry at Book Owners Online.
The Wikipedia article on the College buildings summarises the history of the Fellows’ Library. There is a useful overview of our special collections in Paul Morgan’s Oxford libraries outside the Bodleian (2nd edition, 1980, pages 49–53) and a fuller account in C.J. Fordyce & T.M. Knox, ‘The Library of Jesus College, Oxford: with an appendix on the books bequeathed thereto by Lord Herbert of Cherbury’, Proceedings and papers of the Oxford Bibliographical Society, volume 5, part 2 (1937), reproduced in part by kind permission of the Oxford Bibliographical Society.
The Jesus College Libraries blog has a number of posts about the Fellows’ Library. You may also enjoy the Google Street View tour of the interior of the Fellows’ Library.
There are three book-length histories of Jesus College:
- E.G. Hardy, Jesus College (London: F.E. Robinson, 1899)
- J.N.L. Baker, Jesus College, Oxford, 1571-1971 (Oxford: Jesus College, 1971)
- Felicity Heal (editor), Jesus College Oxford of Queene Elizabethes Foundation : the First 450 Years (Profile, 2021)
Two shorter articles of value, including the summary in the Victoria County History:
- J.N.L. Baker, ‘Jesus College‘, pages 264-279 in H.E. Salter & M.D. Lobel (editors), A History of the County of Oxford, Volume 3: The University of Oxford (London: Oxford University Press for the Institute of Historical Research, 1954)
- Brigid Allen, ‘The Early History of Jesus College, Oxford, 1571-1603‘ Oxoniensia LXIII (1998), pages 105-124.
The Jesus Authors collection in the Meyricke Library consists of books by and about Fellows, Old Members, and others associated with Jesus College. It is catalogued on SOLO and available in the Periodicals Room for current College members to borrow from, with the exception of books by and about T.E. Lawrence, which are confined to the Library. Donations are welcomed.
The official records of Jesus College and associated personal papers are preserved in the Archives.
The oil paintings and sculptures in Jesus College have been photographed and digitised by Art UK.
Jesus College is a member of the Oxford Conservation Consortium.
The College Librarian was interviewed for the Living Libraries podcast in 2019.