The A to Z of the Bodleian Libraries


The A to Z of the Bodleian Libraries

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 Saturday 9 September 2023


  At the Weston Library

  Free, booking required for some sessions

About this event

From Architecture to Zines, discover the buildings, collections and activities of the 26 Bodleian Libraries.

Join us on Saturday 9 September and take a tour behind the scenes, visit our free exhibitions, create a unique artwork, view collections up close or print a keepsake in this special event inspired by the exhibition Alphabets Alive!

You can also book to join our special tours and show-and-tell sessions on Friday 8 September.

A is for Art

Take a tour of the portraits behind the scenes in the Weston Library and discover stories of royalty, tragedy, astronomy and lost (and found) masterpieces.  View portraits including Percy Bysshe Shelly, Henrietta Maria and Sir Bala Rama Varma, Marharaja of Travancore, and works by artists such as Augustus John and Jivan Ram - all within the Weston Library’s magnificent architecture.

Tours take place at 11.30am and 2pm, and last 45 minutes. Sign up at the event welcome desk in Blackwell Hall.

B is for Benefactors

Find out about how hundreds of Bodleian Library donors in the early 1600s helped to transform a neglected space into an internationally renowned collection, with researchers from the ‘Shaping Scholarship’ project at UCL and the Bodleian Libraries.

C is for Conservation

Tour behind the scenes to discover the work of the Conservation team and how they care for collections at the Bodleian. Tours begin at 10.45am, 12pm and 1.45pm, and will last 30 minutes, plus time getting to and from the Conservation Studio. Meet in Blackwell Hall.

These tours are now fully booked, but you can join the waiting list.

D is for Divinity School

Sunday 10 September, 11am – 4pm

Explore inside the stunning Divinity School, the University of Oxford’s oldest purpose-built teaching and examination room. It is also a location made famous from featuring in the Harry Potter film series.

E is for Exhibitions

Explore the meaning of gifts, exchange and the stories we tell about them in Gifts and Books and see the magic of books and alphabets brought to life in Alphabets Alive!

F is for Friends of the Bodleian

Discover how the Friends of the Bodleian support the work of the Bodleian Libraries and the benefits of being a member.

G is for Grotesques

Do you know the difference between a gargoyle and a grotesque?  Have you noticed the grotesques on the outer walls of Bodleian Old Library?  Find out more about these colourful characters carved in stone.

H is for Herbaria

Tours of the Oxford University Herbaria and Sherardian Library of Plant Taxonomy are taking place on Friday 8 September. Find out more and book your place.

I is for Imaging Services

You can explore over 1 million images of the Bodleian's rare books, manuscripts and more on our online image portal, Digital Bodleian, including very old and delicate items that require special treatment. In this session, discover how images are taken of items in the Bodleian Libraries' collections and then shared online. Learn about how the material is handled for imaging, watch as the Imaging team take the images and find out how they match the colour and size for online display.

J is for John Johnson

The Bodleian is home to the John Johnson Collection, one of the world's largest and most important collections of ephemera – collectible items designed for short-term use, like adverts, valentines and propaganda. Come and learn all about this vast collection: from envelopes to postcards, and bookmarks to posters, take a look at some beautiful and fascinating highlights of printed history. 

K is for Kennicott 

Show-and-tell sessions of the Bodleian's collection of Kennicott Bibles are taking place on Friday 8 September. Find out more and book your place.

L is for Law Library

One of the largest law libraries in the UK, the Bodleian Law Library is housed in a building designed by Leslie Martin and Colin St John Wilson, completed in 1964 and now listed at Grade II*. The library holds over 550,000 volumes in the areas of law, criminology, and human rights. Book on a tour to visit the Law Library and see a small display on Shakespeare and the law.

Advance booking required. Minimum age is 11 years, and under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.

Tours are running:

  • Friday 8 September, 3–4pm and 5–6pm
  • Saturday 9 September, 11am–12pm

These tours are now fully booked, but you can join the waiting list.

M is for Maps

Alphabetical lists of places are an obvious companion to a map. Regardless of age, language, size or scale finding a location is made much easier by an A to Z list and a grid. 

Discover a selection of maps that feature in some way a list of places, streets or geographical features. But things aren’t always what they seem. One of the items features volcanos and says, but doesn’t show, where they are – so is this a map? Another has deliberately included streets that don’t exist, why? 

Show and tell sessions will run at:

  • 11am–11.45am
  • 12.15pm–12.45pm
  • 2.30pm – 3.15pm.  

Sign up at the event welcome desk in Blackwell Hall: first come, first served.

N is for Narcissus Marsh

Show-and-tell sessions of the Bodleian's collection of Arabic manuscripts are taking place on Friday 8 September. Find out more and book your place.

O is for Open Access

Open access - what is it? Well, currently if you want to read research you have to pay. Open access is about freeing that research from behind paywalls for everyone – books, articles, everything! Visit the Open Access stand to learn more.

P is for Printing

Print a postcard keepsake by hand on the Bodleian printing press. Send it to a friend to share your A to Z adventures!

The Bodleian’s letterpress printing workshop will also be open for drop-in printing on Sunday 10 September from 12pm – 3pm. Come to the ‘Schola Musicae’ door at the ground floor of the Old Bodleian Library.

Q is for Quiz

How much do you know about the Bodleian Libraries and collections?  Challenge yourself in our special alphabet-themed quiz.

R is for Refugee Studies Collection

Material from the Refugee Collection will be on display as part of our tours of the Social Science Library.

S is for Social Science Library

Tours of the Social Science Library are taking place on:

  • Friday 8 September, 2.30pm – 2.55pm, 4.30pm – 4.55pm
  • Saturday 9 September, 10.30am – 10.55am

Book your place now.

T is for Taylor Institution Library

The Taylor Institution Library ('The Taylorian') is one of Oxford's most beautiful libraries, located in the east wing of the stunning neoclassical building that also houses the Ashmolean museum. It holds over half a million volumes for the study of European languages other than English, including a world-class collection devoted to the French Enlightenment in the Voltaire Room. 

The library will be open to the public for guided tours every half hour from 10.30am, with the last tour at 3.30pm. No booking is required, just turn up. While you're here, make sure to catch the exhibition in the Voltaire Room on ‘Early-modern Monsters in the Taylorian’, set up by History of the Book students.

U is for Uncomfortable Oxford

Take a tour with Uncomfortable Oxford to discover diverse stories and discuss histories of empire, race, class and gender, highlighting how these narratives have an enduring impact on our modern lives.

Advance booking required. The tour is recommended for age 10 and older. Meet in Blackwell Hall at the Weston Library.

Book now

V is for Volunteers

Are you interested in welcoming the public and sharing the work of the Bodleian Libraries?  Find out about volunteering at the Weston Library in the Space for Reading and with public events.

W is for Writing

Enter a world of writing, letters and mark-making with calligraphers Freddie and Andi. Experiment with pens made from drinks cans, bamboo and balsa, and design an illuminated letter for a unique bookmark. Left-handers welcome!

X is for X-rays

Discover how X-rays are transforming understanding of the Bodleian’s collections.

Y is for You

Can you make the letters of the alphabet using your arms and legs?  Visit Alphabets Alive! to find 'The Comical hotch-potch' and see what you can spell out!

Z is for Zines

Discover the process of zine making using a risograph, colour and your imagination. Collage creative alphabet letters inspired by our exhibition Alphabets Alive! and material from the John Johnson collection and transform them into a zine booklet.


This event is held at the Weston Library, and other locations across Oxford.

Blackwell Hall, Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG

Find us on Google Maps

 Wheelchair access

The Weston Library is wheelchair accessible.


The Bodleian Libraries Learning Programme is generously supported by The Helen Hamlyn Trust:

The Helen Hamlyn Trust logo
Oxford Open Doors

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