The Queen’s College Library cares for around 120,000 books printed before 1850 and a significant collection of medieval and post-medieval manuscripts. These can be consulted in the Feinberg Special Collections Room by College Members or by researchers by appointment, Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm (please contact in advance).

Scope of the Collections

The collections represent the typical collections of an Oxford college, such as theology, jurisprudence and the classics. Queen’s is particularly strong in incunables, early modern science, medicine, and mathematics, and Continental printing. Numerous languages are represented. Manuscripts include significant medieval, heraldic, and genealogical materials.

The College’s collections have largely been formed by a series of donations, including around eighty theological texts given by Archibishop Edmund Grindal (1519?–1583) and a considerable portion of the large library of Provost and Bishop of Lincoln, Thomas Barlow (1607?–1691), many of which bear his extensive annotations. Gifts from Provost Timothy Halton (1632?–1704) and government official and Fellow Sir Joseph Williamson (1633-1701) helped to form a significant collection, strong in theology, law, geography, and the sciences, and were augmented by important gifts of medical and scientific texts. In the 1840s, a bequest of £30,000 in stocks by an Old Member, Robert Mason, enabled the Library to purchase widely and to develop one of the richest rare book collections of any Oxford college. More recent donations include the following: A. H. Sayce (1845–1933)’s collection of incunables and books on Chinese and Japanese art; William Sandy (1843–1920)’s large collection of First World War pamphlets; and Douglas Bridgewater’s extensive collection of works on Cumberland and Westmorland.

Treasures of the Library include a tenth-century manuscript of Isidore’s Etymologiae (MS 320), a fifteenth century French Legendary (MS 305), John Wycliffe’s manuscript New Testament and Bible, Gutenberg’s Catholicon (1460), several Caxtons, manuscripts belonging to Henry VIII in velvet bindings, Daniel Bomberg’s Second Rabbinic Bible (1525), Saxton’s Atlas of England and Wales (1579), the four folio editions of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Tragedies, and Histories, editions of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687) and Opticks (1704), architectural designs by Nicholas Hawksmoor, sixteen volumes of the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, works from the Kelmscott Press, and Thomas Hardy’s final manuscript, ‘Winter Words’.

For a brief history of the Library, see Burnett Hillman Streeter, The Chained Library (1931), ch. 3, and ‘The Queen’s College’ in Paul Morgan, Oxford Libraries Outside the Bodleian Libraries (1973).

Using the vast resources at the Library’s disposal has proved invaluable in researching the early stages of my dissertation. The experience of being able to physically engage with an early modern medieval text has been second to none. Having the Library’s collection so easily accessible has been vital to developing the palaeographical skills required at Master’s level, as well as enabling me to further improve the quality of my scholarship.


The great majority of printed materials are listed in Search Oxford Libraries Online (SOLO). Runs of serials starting before but continuing after 1850 may not be catalogued here and a small portion of monographs, typically in non-English languages, may be located via the card catalogue in the Feinberg Special Collections Room. A card-catalogue and catalogue of annotated books is also available in the Library. This information has largely been added to SOLO.

For medieval manuscripts, see Peter Kidd, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts of The Queen’s College, Oxford (2016).  For manuscripts in general, see H. O. Coxe, Catalogus Codicum Mss. Collegii Reginensis and Catalogue of Manuscripts Acquired by The Queen’s College since the Publication of H. O. Coxe’s Catalogue… (MSS. Queen’s College 389-543) (an additional copy is available in the Weston Library).

For manuscripts above MS 543, enquire with the Librarian. Some materials are also listed in the National Register of Archives/ARCHON hosted by The National Archives. 

For the College Archives, contact

Facsimiles and Digitisation

The majority of medieval manuscripts have been microfilmed. These should be used in the first instance (a digital microfilm reader is available in the Library). A growing number of items are also available on Digital Bodleian; recent items include Thomas Crosfield’s diary and Thomas Hardy’s ‘Winter Words’. Some printed items are also available via commercial collections such as Early English Books Online.

Peet Library

The Peet Library is a specialist collection of Egyptology material which is maintained and updated by The Queen’s College Library. It was donated by Sir Alan Gardiner (1879–1963) in memory of Professor Thomas Eric Peet (1882–1934), a noted Egyptologist and a Fellow of Queen’s.

The Peet Library is open to all students of Egyptology in the University and anyone else who can prove that access to the collection will be beneficial to their studies. In order to gain access, you must contact the Professor of Egyptology,

The library is situated in the Waverley Room in the New Library and, like the main library, is accessed by a card swipe system. Non-Queen’s members will need to be inducted into the New Library and use of the Peet Library before their University cards are activated for entry. Please contact to arrange an appointment. Non-Queen’s members may use the Peet Library between 7:00 am and 11:45 pm and must report to the Lodge on arrival. Members of Queen’s who have Peet membership can access the library 24 hours a day. Please note that a small collection of Peet Library books are held in our reserve circulating collection. If a Peet Library book displays on SOLO as being located in the ‘Reserve Collection’ and you are not a member of college, please seek assistance from a member of library staff who will be able to fetch the book on your behalf.

The college has a collection of Egyptian artefacts which were placed in the Ashmolean Museum on long term loan in 1949.

Your Visit

To make an appointment, please email or telephone 01865 279130. Please note that spaces are limited and as much advance notice as possible should be given.

Non-College Members with an appointment should report to the Porters’ Lodge (entrance on the High Street), where they will be directed to the Library. Please then ring the bell button on the intercom to the left of the glass Library door. College Members with and appointment should report to the Enquiry Desk in the New Library.

The Library will record your visit and the items that you have consulted, but official identification for non-College Members is not normally required.

Coats, bags, pens, and food and drink are not permitted in the Feinberg Special Collections Room. Lockers are available at the entrance to the New Library.

Handwashing facilities are available and should be used before consulting materials. Please avoid wearing nail polish, which can mark parchment or paper.

Book supports and book snakes/weights are available in the Library. Please ask if you have not received guidance in using them.

Photography (including mobile phone cameras) is permitted for research purposes. Contact to request permission to reproduce images.

Leave the items in the room and report to the Enquiry Desk when you have finished with them.

Queen’s College members, Fellows and staff

The standard University readers’ card does not grant access to the Special Collections including manuscripts, archive material, rare books or music Special Collections.  All members of the College are welcome to consult the Special Collections but access arrangements and reading room rules are exactly the same as for external readers and appointments must be made in advance with the Librarian.


The care of the special collections is a time consuming and labour-intensive activity. The College is a member of the Oxford Conservation Consortium, whose skilled staff carry out a broad range of conservation and preservation activities with a view to stabilising and preserving collections for the future.

OCC conservators repair and box damaged or fragile items and offer invaluable advice and guidance on preservation issues. Past conservation projects at Queen’s have included conservation of textile bindings, and treatment of the early printed book collection. For more on OCC and its specialist conservation library, see The Chantry Library website.