The library building in Merton’s Mob Quadrangle dates from 1378 and is the oldest academic library in the UK with an unbroken history. Its harmonious appearance has developed over more than six centuries of history. Daylight still enters from the earliest stained glass to survive from any English library. The Tudor roses and heraldic animals that decorate the great vaulted ceiling call to mind the years following the Wars of the Roses. Originally furnished with lectern desks on which manuscript books were chained for security, the library acquired its present appearance in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when oak presses with bookshelves and desks were installed by Warden Henry Savile. Growing steadily over the centuries, the library collections in manuscript, print, and electronic formats reflect the changing academic requirements and interests of the members of the college from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Photography by Colin Dunn (Scriptura Ltd). Courtesy of The Warden and Fellows of Merton College Oxford.