The library was rescued by Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613), a Fellow of Merton College who had travelled extensively in Europe carrying out several diplomatic missions for Queen Elizabeth I. He married a rich widow and devoted her fortune to the refurbishment. It was refurnished to house a new collection of some 2,500 books, some of them given by Bodley himself, some by other donors. A librarian, Thomas James, was appointed, and the library finally opened on 8 November 1602.
The Bodleian Library
Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester, was the younger brother of King Henry V. The duke donated over 280 manuscripts, each one would be the work of two or three years and each valued in modern terms at about the price of a new car.
Duke Humfrey’s library replaced the first library for Oxford University (begun c.1320) which comprised about twenty manuscripts.
It survived for just over sixty years. In 1550, acting under legislation passed by King Edward VI designed to purge the English church of all traces of Roman Catholicism, including ‘superstitious books and images’, Richard Cox, Dean of the newly-founded Christ Church after a cursory inspection, ordered the books burnt. Some survived by being sold to Booksellers, others went to Glovers to press their gloves, or Taylors to make measures, or to Bookbinders to cover books bound by them, and some were kept by the Reformers for their own use. Only forty survived, though some have never been returned to the Bodleian.
I went into Oxford by bus. Ask for 'Maudlin Bridge' I was told. Then as an afterthought, of course that's spelt, M-A-G-D-A-L-E-N.
Treasures of the Bodleian
The first of the two maps on the right is recognisable as Britain tipped on its side with Wales at the bottom. This thirteenth century map acted as a blueprint for British maps for the next two hundred years.
The second is an Islamic map of the known world, drawn 1553 AD, shown with the south at the top. After which it is fairly recognisable with the exception of the entire southern hemisphere being occupied by Africa.