Shelf Lives: Four Centuries of Collectors and their Books

stack of booksWith more than eight million items on its shelves, Cambridge University Library is one of the largest accumulations of books and manuscripts in Europe, and one of the most important in the world.

But its holdings are not a single, uniform entity: instead they consist of a great variety of different collections which, over the centuries, by one route or another, have come to be housed under the same roof.

Some of the most remarkable of these are the collections gathered by ardent individual book-lovers, whose intensely personal passions for acquiring rare and beautiful volumes have, through the eventual deposit of their treasures in the Library, gone on to enrich the national heritage.

This exhibition presents ten such collectors, whose lives span the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. As well as placing on display some of the most splendid, distinctive and—in a few cases—unexpected items held in the Library, it allows us to observe the changing motives, fashions and tastes of book-collectors over the course four hundred years.

Admission is free and the exhibition runs until 16 June 2012.

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