Wadham library discovery

A professor at New College has discovered what is believed to be the earliest surviving catalogue of Wadham’s Library collection. 

The four-volume catalogue provides an inventory of the total library collections as they stood in the 1680s, shortly after the college was founded in 1610.

Dr Will Poole, who is an English fellow at New College, made the historic discovery while investigating the library ‘small donors’ holdings, which consist of items that have yet to be catalogued online and which are recorded only in a card catalogue.

Dr Poole then identified the collection as Wadham library’s earliest surviving catalogue, commenting: “It is without any doubt the library’s catalogue as used from 1687 until at least the 1720s or 1730s.”

Wadham College Librarian, Tim Kirtley, described the discovery as “hugely significant”. 

He said: “It illustrates the collecting strategies that must have been in place at the time – for example the section on poetry was not interleaved, presumably because the college did not expect to buy very much Latin poetry.”

“The catalogue also shows us through the shelf mark scheme the physical arrangement of the subjects on the shelves.”

The discovery is an important step in reconstructing an image of the library in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Anya Metzer, a student at Wadham, expressed her excitement: “The artifact comes from just 70 years after the foundation of the College and is a real piece of Wadham’s early history.”

“It offers us an insight into the academic community in the late seventeenth-century, a time when the earliest members of the Royal Society would meet at Wadham to discuss advancements in natural philosophy and science.”

The catalogue will be examined in detail and further information is to be published in the library’s online exhibition.