SKU: BK4085

'Clearly written and sumptuously illustrated ... an asset to one's shelves' - Library & Information History

‘Julia Walworth’s history is a handsome work. Richly illustrated, it takes us century-by-century through the library’s changes. … Merton’s history is usefully paradigmatic, but there are also quirks, spats and personalities that bring out the library’s own character.’ - TLS

The Merton library is rightly known for its antiquity, its beautiful medieval and early modern architecture and fittings and for its remarkable and important collection of manuscripts and rare books, yet a nineteenth-century plan to tear the medieval library down and replace it was only narrowly frustrated. This brief history of Europe’s oldest academic library traces its origins in the thirteenth century, when a new type of community of scholars was first being set up, through to the present day and its multiple functions as a working college library, a unique resource for researchers and a delight for curious visitors. 

Drawing on the remarkable wealth of documentation in the college’s archives, this is the first history of the library to explore collections, buildings, readers and staff across more than 700 years. The story is told in part through stunning colour images that depict not only exceptional treasures but also the library furnishings and decorations, and which show manuscripts, books, bindings and artefacts of different periods in their changing contexts.

Featuring a timeline and a plan of the college, this book will be of interest to historians, alumni and tourists alike.


Julia C. Walworth is Fellow Librarian at Merton College, Oxford.

  • Paperback with flaps
  • 144 pages, 220 x 173 mm
  • c.85 colour illustrations
  • ISBN: 9781851245390
  • Publication September 2020

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