The Bodleian Library at Oxford University is one of the most famous in the world. It was named after an ex-diplomat and fellow of Merton College, Thomas Bodley. Bodley used the wealth he had acquired by marrying the widow of a pilchard magnate to save the library. The University used his money to house the existing collection of books and around 2,500 new texts donated by Bodley and others. The library opened its doors to the public in November 1602, four years after the University accepted Bodley’s largess.

Two years later, on 18th April, 1604, King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) knighted Bodley. That same year the King, who was already a patron of the Library, granted the Bodleian an endowment of lands. When he died in 1613 the library also received a large part of Sir Thomas’ fortune which, in part, has enabled it to survive until the present day.

For more information on Sir Thomas Bodley’s life see the biography at the NNDB web-site; for more details of the Bodleian visit the History page on the Library’s web-site.