Sir Thomas Bodley (Taken with Instagram)
Straight up dude. Founded the Library. Was Duke of Gloucester.
Bodley’s greatest achievement was the re-founding of the library at Oxford. In 1470, the library had been presented to the university as a gift from Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest son of Henry IV. However, during the Reformation of the 1550s, the library had been stripped and abandoned, remaining virtually untouched until the return of Bodley in 1598. The library was later named the Bodleian Library in his honour. He determined, he said, “to take his farewell of state employments and to set up his staff at the library door in Oxford.” In 1598 his offer to restore the old library was accepted by the university. Bodley began his book collection effort in 1600, using the site of the former library above the Divinity School, which was in near ruin.
Although Bodley lived over 400 years ago, modern libraries benefit from some of his ideas and practices.
One important idea that Bodley implemented was the creation of a “Benefactors’ Book” in 1602, which was bound and put on display in the library in 1604. While he did have funding through the wealth of his wife, Ann Ball, and the inheritance he received from his father, Bodley still needed gifts from his affluent friends and colleagues to build his library collection. Although not a completely original idea (as encouragement in 1412 the university chaplain was ordered to say mass for benefactors), Bodley recognized that having the contributor’s name on permanent display was also inspiring. According to Louis B. Wright,
He had prepared a handsome Register of Donations, in vellum, in which the name of every benefactor should be written down in a large and fair hand so all might read. And he kept the Register prominently displayed so that no visitor to the library could escape seeing the generosity of Bodley’s friends. The plan, as it deserved, was a success, for its originator found that, ‘every man bethinks himself how by some good book or other he may be written in the scroll of the benefactors.’
For over four centuries, this innovative idea has continued to motivate friends of libraries everywhere.
Another significant event related to Bodley was the agreement between the Bodleian Library and the Stationer’s Company, in which “the Company agreed to send to the Library a copy of every book entered in their Register on condition that the books thus given might be borrowed if needed for reprinting, and that the books given to the Library by others might be examined, collated and copied by the Company.”
This was the beginning of legal deposit libraries, and today the Bodleian is one of six such libraries in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In 2003, the Copyright Act of 1911 was expanded to include information on CD-ROM and websites. This regulation is in place to ensure the collection and preservation of all published materials as an accurate, up to date historical record.