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Previous library exhibitions


The 17th Century English Scientific Revolution

After the seismic conflict and turmoil of the English Civil War and the Cromwellian Protectorate, the last forty years of the seventeenth century were revolutionary in another way, witnessing significant advances in all fields of science from physics and chemistry to medical and life sciences. The relative political calm and optimism of post- restoration England allowed scientific endeavour to flourish.

The Royal Society was founded in 1660 and scientific publishing grew.  As in the rest of Europe, long held scientific precepts were challenged by natural philosophers working experimentally in London and the university cities. Many English publications from the second half of the seventeenth century are still to this day regarded as some of the most seminal scientific texts of all time.

The Queen’s College Library is extremely fortunate to own some of the most important of these publications. This exhibition showcases selected highlights from our collection and also includes earlier texts which indicate research endeavour at the beginning of the century.  Importantly, these provide evidence that students in Oxford were continuing their scientific studies despite the Civil War raging around them.


Shakespeare, Middleton and Early Modern Dramatic Authorship

This exhibition explores the work of two great early modern playwrights, William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton, through the collection of the Queen’s College Library. On 23rd April 2016, it will be four hundred years since Shakespeare died, and so it is fitting to be celebrating his work this year in the Library, where copies of the First, Second, Third and Fourth Folios are held. Middleton, himself a student at Queen’s at the very end of the sixteenth century, is also well represented in the collection, both writing alone and as a collaborator and reviser in conjunction with Shakespeare, Thomas Dekker, William Rowley, John Fletcher and probably others.


Unbuilt Queen's

The title of this exhibition was inspired by Howard Colvins’ well-known architectural work, Unbuilt Oxford, which describes and depicts designs for various buildings across Oxford which never came to fruition, from the 14th to 20th centuries. While focusing on our own buildings and the library in particular, Unbuilt Queen’s expands Colvin’s theme to include not only designs which were drawn up but never came into existence, but also buildings which no longer exist, and buildings yet to be completed. It was on display in the Upper Library from September 2015 until Spring 2016.


War of Words

World War One was not only fought by soldiers in trenches. Academics, businessmen, artists and journalists were quick to use their skills and influence to garner support and drum up public morale. Battles on the field raged alongside a war of words. Although British propaganda from the period has become iconic, this exhibition – drawing on a unique aspect of the Library’s WWI collection – focuses on the war from a German perspective.  The exhibition was on display in the Upper Library from April to September 2015. 


Primetime: An illustrated guide to Books of Hours

Primetime, the title of this exhibition, stems from the link that Books of Hours had with literacy and their role as important timekeepers for their owners. The exhibition covers the historical context of the birth of the ‘medieval bestseller’ and the development of the Books of Hours from illuminated manuscript to mass production using examples from the Queen's collection. It was on display in the Upper Library from October 2014 until March 2015.


Treasures of the Queen's College Library

In March 2014 the final piece of the Upper Library refurbishment was put into place when our stunning new exhibition case was installed. The first exhibition in the new case featured books and manuscripts representing some of our finest treasures. The exhibition was in situ until the end of the long vacation 2014.


The Road to War

 The Library is fortunate in possessing an extensive collection of First World War material which covers both the war itself and the run up to the conflict. As our collection is so large we decided to hold two exhibitions, one to explore what was happening in years immediately before the outbreak of war and one during the centenary of the war itself. A large proportion of our WWI holdings originally belonged to William Sanday, the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Christ Church who became fascinated by the First World War and, on his death in 1920, donated his extensive collection to Queen’s together with his theological pamphlets. The exhibition which was on display in the Upper Library exhibition cases from October 2012 until June 2013. 


Ghosts in the Library

This small exhibition illustrated the variety of opinions held about ghosts in English and European thought, with works on display dating from the 15th to 19th centuries. The topic of apparitions of the dead was a popular and controversial one in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and reflecting our collection the exhibition focused particularly on ghosts as they appeared in Reformation literature. The exhibition was on display from April to October 2012.


Medicine: Continuity and Change

The antiquarian medical collection at The Queen’s College was principally created in the eighteenth century through the generous benefactions of two physicians: Sir John Floyer (1649-1734) and Theophilus Metcalfe (1690-1757). Combined, these medical libraries give a wonderful insight into medical knowledge and practice over a period of two hundred years. The exhibition was on display in the Upper Library exhibition cases from Michaelmas 2011 until Spring 2012.