Early Printed Books

The Library’s historical book collections fall into two categories. Firstly, there is a large collection of research material that the library has accumulated over the last several hundred years. The collection is particularly strong in classics, philosophy, theology and church history, tracts and proclamations, ecclesiastical law, early medicine and British regional history. The majority of these books can be found in the Short Title Catalogue.

The second collection is formed from large benefactions of rare and antique books in many different subjects, including many rare items of bibliographic interest.

As of January 2015, about 90% of our pre-1820 monograph material has been catalogued and is searchable on SOLO, the University’s union catalogue. For other material an author-indexed card catalogue in the Library must be searched. Please see below for access details.

Search the online catalogue


The Library is rich in medieval and post-medieval manuscripts. Those acquired by the mid-19th century are described in H.O. Coxe, Catalogus Codicum MSS Collegii Reginensis (Oxford, 1852), reprinted as Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Oxford Colleges (East Ardesley, 1972). The collection is particularly strong in theology, heraldry, medieval bindings, post-medieval antiquarian collections, and the history of the College and University. All enquires for further information or requests to consult the manuscript collections should be directed to the Library library@queens.ox.ac.uk as far in advance as possible, due to the fact that facilities for visiting scholars are limited.

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.

Medical Collections

In the eighteenth century the Library was given two significant medical collections that immediately made the Queen’s medical collections among the largest in the University. The interest in both these collections is that they are the individual libraries of particular physicians, Sir John Floyer (1649-1734) and  Theophilus Metcalfe (1690-1757). Floyer’s books are very much the working library of a practising doctor, Metcalfe’s reflect his more academic and bibliophile tastes, but as a combined collection they provide a unique insight into the history of medical practice and training spanning almost 200 years.

The collections, which include some manuscripts as well as printed books, were catalogued in 2003 thanks to a generous grant from the Wellcome Trust.

We also possess a collection of papers, donated by Dennis Gibbs, relating to Floyer, his work and his family.

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, richard.parkinson@queens.ox.ac.uk.

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 library@queens.ox.ac.uk 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. Objects from this collection are now on display in the new Peet Library.

Access policy for Special Collections

The collections are maintained for the benefit of mankind as a whole as part of the College’s Charitable objectives and operate as a separate facility to the general library facilities available to College members. Access to the library’s Special Collections is strictly monitored and by appointment in advance only. We welcome academics, students of all levels and independent researchers to consult our collections any time we are open.

Please email the Library or telephone 01865 279130, regarding requests to view material or for details on photography or microfilming.

1.    Facilities for consulting the Special Collections are limited and all consultations must take place in the designated Historic Collections Reading Room.

2.    All requests for appointments must be made as far in advance as possible.

3.    On arrival at the Library all readers must show photographic ID to the library staff and leave all bags and coats outside the reading room.

4.    Only pencils may be used in the reading room.

5.    All readers will be required to complete and sign a registration form.

6.    Readers may take photographs without a flash for their own research purposes but will be required to complete and sign a form agreeing to ask permission if they subsequently wish to use the images in any form of publication.

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.


The College subscribes to the Digital Bodleian service which has allowed some items from our Special Collections to be fully digitised in high quality, and made publicly available online. We hope to pursue further digitisation projects in the future in order to make our vast Special Collections more widely accessible.