Lincoln College

Library History

Library Exterior at Night



Perhaps Lincoln's most striking feature, the Library is an 18th century converted church. It provides access to most of the main texts required by undergraduates, while also providing for more specialised needs in the form of journals and papers.  It serves as a beautiful and peaceful backdrop for hard work.The original Library was housed on the first floor of the north range of Front Quad, in the current SCR.  Books in the original Library were expensive and so were secured by metal chains to the desk or lectern that housed them.  The books were chained even as late as 1739 - Lincoln may have been the last Oxford college to discontinue the practice.  Originally, the Library could only be used by Fellows - in 1813 was it agreed that undergraduates could use the Library, but only if accompanied by a Fellow.

The College Library has, since the 1970s, been housed in All Saints Church, which was part of the original foundation of the College.

On 8th March 1700 the church spire collapsed and the talented amateur architect, Henry Aldrich - who was also the Dean of Christ Church - was responsible for the design of the new church.  However, the work of Nicholas Hawksmoor is thought to be found on some of the later parts (namely the tower and spire).  Of the original bells, four survived the collapse of the tower.  The Library now has a full peal of eight bells, which are still rung regularly by the Oxford Society of Change-Ringers, and on special occasions, like the election of a new Rector.  The repairs to the church were extremely expensive and could only be afforded due to the many donations that were received, including those from Queen Anne, and all the other Oxford colleges (except Christ Church, Wadham and Pembroke).



The church was declared redundant in 1971 and offered to the College; the new Library came into use in 1975.  The only major change to the interior was the raising of the original floor by over four feet to provide the space for the construction of the lower reading room.

The upper reading room, known as the Cohen Room, has an impressive plastered ceiling, decorated with the shields of the original major subscribers to the rebuilding.

Downstairs are the law and science sections of the main library (which has been recently refurbished) and the old senior library.  The senior library holds the older books, which include a series of pamphlets from the Civil War period, Wesleyana and plays dating from the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  The College also possesses an interesting collection of manuscripts, many of which were given by the founder, early benefactors and Fellows.  The science section in the lower room is named after the distinguished Fellow, Lord Florey, under whose supervision the medical properties of penicillin were developed.

For more information see the Rector's guide to the Library.