Cambridge University Library

As expected from one of the world’s top universities, Cambridge University has one of the world’s best libraries with hundreds of thousands of books and journals. We shall look at what Cambridge University Library has to offer as well as its history in today’s guide.

The Different Cambridge University Libraries

Cambridge University is one of the best universities in the world, so naturally it has to have some of the best libraries in the world. Across the university there are five main separate libraries: the University Library main building; the Medical Library; the Squire Law Library; the Betty and Gordon Moore Library (mathematical sciences); and the Central Science Library.

As well as these five libraries, Cambridge University has over 100 smaller libraries that are specific to different faculties and subject areas. Across the university there are several million books as well as over seven million volumes of the University Library.

Legal Deposit Library

One of the reasons why Cambridge University Library has such a diverse collection of books and journals is because of its status as a legal deposit library. This status allows the university to claim, free of charge, a copy of every book, journal, map and music that is published or released in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The university library is one of only three legal deposit libraries still in existence in the United Kingdom. Every year approximately 120,000 new books are added to the Cambridge University Library.

History of Cambridge University Library

The main Cambridge University Library has been around since the early 15th century. The earliest catalogue in the library dates back to around 1424. It was in 1416 that William Loring gave some of the first books to the library that formed the basis of the university library.

In the 1500’s, the Cambridge University Library started to receive a significant amount of donations of books and many wealthy families left their books to the university in their legacy.

The original Cambridge University Library was housed near the Senate House, within the university’s Old Schools. It eventually outgrew this space and has since moved to the western side of Cambridge town centre where it still stands.

Cambridge University Library Building

The Cambridge University Library building itself is very impressive. The building was designed by renowned architect Giles Gilbert Scott and built between 1931 and 1934. Giles Gilbert Scott has built many of Britain’s most famous industrial buildings including the home of the Tate Modern museum in central London. The library tower stands at an impressive 48 metres tall, which isn’t far off that of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Over the years the Cambridge University Library has been extended on numerous occasions as the collections grew. The original, main building is home to the Japanese and Chinese collections.

Special Collections at the Cambridge University Library

As well as the millions of books and journals that the Cambridge University Library holds, it is also home to numerous special collections that are considered very valuable both historically and academically.

One of the most famous special collections at the library is an archive of the correspondence and books of former Cambridge graduate, Charles Darwin.

Another fascinating item in the library is the Gutenberg Bible. Dating back to 1455, the bible is the earliest European example of a book that uses moveable type.

You can also find papers and works of famous Cambridge graduates as well as other influential figures such as Sir Isaac Newton, Siegfried Sassoon, George Gabriel Stokes and Ernest Rutherford.

Additionally, there are all the archives of Cambridge University held within the library.

Admission into Cambridge University Library

There are four main categories of people who are allowed free access to the library: member of the University of Cambridge; academic staff and research students; undergraduate students from other UK universities; and private and business researchers.

Members of the public are allowed access to the Cambridge University Library upon payment of a 10 pound administration fee that is valid for up to six months. However, you are allowed to enter the library free of charge on a temporary ticket that lasts for one week – but only once per twelve month period.

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