Radcliffe Camera Oxford

The Radcliffe Camera


Radcliffe Camera Oxford - Photo by Phil Wiley (c)

The Radcliffe Camera, locally known as  “Rad Cam” or “Radders”, is a building in Oxford, England, designed by James Gibbs in the English Palladian style and built in 1737-1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. The building was funded by a £40,000 bequest from John Radcliffe, who died in 1714. Nicholas Hawksmoor originally proposed making the building round, although the final plans designed by Gibbs were quite different from those planned by Hawksmoor.

After the Radcliffe Science Library moved into another building in about 1860, the Radcliffe Library was taken over by the Bodleian and renamed the Radcliffe Camera (the word camera translates from Latin as “room” or “chamber”.). The upper-floor library became a reading room, used mainly by undergraduates, who had been admitted to the Bodleian since 1856, and the ground floor was turned into a book-stack (it was converted into a second reading room in 1941). In taking over the Radcliffe, the Bodleian library acquired its first major addition of space for readers since the building of Selden End in 1634. And by the beginning of the twentieth century an average of a hundred people a day were using it. It now holds books from the English, history, and theology collections, mostly secondary sources found on Undergraduate and Graduate reading lists. There is space for around 600,000 books in rooms beneath Radcliffe Square.

The Bodleian Library

which is the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in England is second in size only to the British Library. These days, many students choose to order books up to Radcliffe Camera’s reading rooms to enjoy the picturesque surroundings. Annoyingly for staff, it is also one of the harder Bodleian sites to deliver items to 🙂

Oxford’s libraries are among the most celebrated in the world, not only for their incomparable collections of books and manuscripts, but also for their buildings. Some of which have remained in continuous use since the Middle Ages. These buildings are still used by students and scholars from all over the world, and they attract an ever-increasing number of visitors.

The Bodleian, the chief among the University’s libraries, has a special place.

First opened to scholars in 1602, it incorporates an earlier library erected by the University in the fifteenth century to house books donated by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester. Since 1602 it has expanded, slowly at first but with increasing momentum over the last 150 years, to keep pace with the ever-growing accumulation of books and papers, but the core of the old buildings has remained intact.

Before being granted access to the library, new readers are required to agree to a formal declaration. This declaration was traditionally oral, but is now usually made by signing a letter to the same effect, and ceremonies in which readers recite the declaration are still performed for those who wish to take them, these occur primarily at the start of the University’s Michaelmas term. The English text of the declaration is as follows:

I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.

This is a translation of the following traditional Latin oath:

Do fidem me nullum librum vel instrumentum aliamve quam rem ad bibliothecam pertinentem, vel ibi custodiae causa depositam, aut e bibliotheca sublaturum esse, aut foedaturum deformaturum aliove quo modo laesurum; item neque ignem nec flammam in bibliothecam inlaturum vel in ea accensurum, neque fumo nicotiano aliove quovis ibi usurum; item promitto me omnes leges ad bibliothecam Bodleianam attinentes semper observaturum esse. (Leges bibliothecae bodleianae alta voce prae legendae custodis iussu).

Here’s a short video of the libraries of Bodleian.

If you’d like to read more about the Bodleian you can find the official history of the Bodleian here, or browse a richly illustrated full colour .pdf brochure.

And if you’d like access to the online section of the library you can find a range of resources at that link. Some sections though are limited to registered students of Oxford universities.

Latest Tweets about the Radcliffe Camera and The Bodleian



RT @DebHarkness: Today’s A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES treat: The Bodleian and Its Treasures. The Bodleian Library has a wonderful new… http://t.co/c1BAtF6L

Saturday, November 19, 2011 7:39:50 AM

Last day at #OxfordPatristics2011. Spending an hour interpreting Greek in Radcliffe Camera. Surreal.

By BGronewoller at 08/13/2011 1:35

Piers Plowman: A Facsimile of the Z-Text in Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Bodley 851: http://t.co/8iMJzT2

By KurusunoKaifl at 08/17/2011 13:33


The Bodleian Library and Its Friends: Catalogue of an Exhibition: http://t.co/vrJ0ijs

By HidakaVestayz at 08/17/2011 13:19


Oxford Blog Posts

Ben Ross’ Blog – Eurotrip Destination #3 – Oxford

http://benross.net/Oct 31

The Radcliffe Camera, aka “Radcam” arguably Oxford’s most recognizable building. There were few sites I saw which weren’t surrounded with SLR-camera-wielding Chinese tour groups.

Radcliffe Camera | Book in England

The Radcliffe Camera (colloquially, Rad Cam; Radder in 1930s slang[1]) is a building in Oxford, England, designed by James Gibbs in the English Palladian style and built in 1737–1749 to house the Radcliffe Science

Publish Date: 08/01/2011 17:40



The Radcliffe Camera | London Wanders

The Radcliffe Camera is one of my favorite buildings in England, not just because of the name but because of the history behind it. It was built in the 17th century to serve as an extension of The Bodleian Library.

Publish Date: 06/24/2011 1:42



Oxford: Blue sky over the Radcliffe Camera | Casey Lessard Photography

This is the Radcliffe Camera, a library that houses English Literature and other books. Here’s a great video about Oxford (look for Oxford Today), and the Radcliffe Camera is discussed as part of the Bodleian Library at

Publish Date: 09/28/2010 6:39


Bodleian Library to release first iPhone app | The Oxford Student

Bible buffs beware: the Bodleian has entered the furore of the online market with a mobile phone app that immerses users in the history of the King James Bible. The app, which is the first to be released by the Bodleian

Publish Date: 08/06/2011 3:26


Bodleian Library at Oxford in Black and White « Black and White

Whilst the Bodleian Library, in its current incarnation, has a continuous history dating back to 1602, its roots date back even further. The first purpose-built library known to have existed in Oxford was founded in the

Publish Date: 08/06/2011 18:27