The Story Behind Duke Humfrey’s Library, Oxford

Duke Humfreys Library
Duke Humfrey's Library | © David Iliff/WikiCommons
Sarah Dawson

Hidden away in Oxford’s Bodleian Library is a historic reading room, with more than a hint of magic. Here’s everything you need to know about Duke Humfrey’s Library.

Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library, at the University of Oxford. With parts of the room dating back to 1487, this stunning medieval library has seen many famous scholars study within its walls and it is still in use by students today. With rows of old oak shelves stacked with ancient books and manuscripts, a beautiful painted ceiling and imposing high walls, Duke Humfrey’s Library is full of history, an atmospheric retreat where you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

Duke Humfrey’s Library Interior

The library is named after Humfrey of Lancaster, the first Duke of Gloucester and the youngest son of King Henry IV. With three older brothers, Humfrey was not expected to fight in the wars along the Welsh and Scottish borders, so instead dedicated his life to learning. The Duke had a great passion for literature and commissioned translations of many classical Greek works into Latin. When he died in 1447, he donated his sizeable collection to the University of Oxford who built Duke Humfrey’s Library in honour of their supporter and to house all of these invaluable books. During the Reformation in 1550, the Monarchy removed all of the books from Duke Humfrey’s Library, along with many other libraries across the country to destroy any mention of Roman Catholicism. We’ll never know exactly what happened to these books, but the tragic likelihood is that they were all burned. Despite this, three of Duke Humfrey’s original books did survive and can still be found in the library, along with other priceless pieces including a 3rd century manuscript of the Gospels of the Bible and a collection of ancient maps.

Duke Humfrey’s Library has had its own moment in the spotlight when it doubled as Hogwarts library in the Harry Potter films. Daily guided tours around the library are available, so you can see it for yourself.

Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

X
close-ad
Edit article