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Art and Architecture: Oxford Collections

The Sackler Library is the premier research library for the study of art, architecture and archaeology at Oxford. It incorporates multiple libraries previously housed in separate locations around the University.

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Sackler Library (opened 2001)

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Oxford-plus Collections

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Oxford Libraries & Reading Rooms

Oxford's research collections in support of the study of art and architecture at Oxford are rich, diverse and in many cases extraordinarily deep. Print and electronic materials are collected as broadly as possible for all geographic areas and periods.
See Collection Development Policy Statement (below).
Principal Collections
Library resources for the study of art and architectural history are primarily housed in the Sackler Library. The Bodleian Library (including the History Faculty Library and the Weston Library), the Ruskin School of Art Library and Balfour Library at the Pitt Rivers Museum also hold important art-related research materials. Other, more specialised, collections are to be found all over the University.
Sackler Library
The Sackler Library opened in 2001 as the Bodleian Libraries' premier open-stack research collection for art, architecture and archaeology at Oxford. It incorporates the collections of a number of formerly separately-housed university/departmental libraries and is consequently divided into various specialist collections: Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Egyptology; Classical Art and Archaeology, including Classics and Ancient History; Byzantine Art and Architecture; the Art and Architecture of the Western European Tradition; Islamic Art, Archaeology and Architecture; East and Southeast Asian Art, Archaeology and Architecture; Numismatics; Papyrology. Publications are collected in all appropriate languages. Most of the Sackler’s holdings are on the online catalogue (SOLO). Significant sections of the Sackler are non-circulating.
Sackler Library sub-collections
  • Auction house and art dealers’ catalogues
    While many auction and art dealer catalogues feature in the Sackler’s collections, the Bodleian Library’s holdings (especially of UK catalogues) are also strong. Most auction catalogues as well as many dealer catalogues are housed in the Bodleian Libraries' offsite facility and may be requested via the online catalogue (SOLO). Some catalogues are recorded in handlists only; some have received box (group)-level cataloguing; others are fully catalogued on SOLO.
  • Eastern Art Collection
    This collection moved to the Sackler Library in 2004 as an amalgamation of the former library of the Department of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean Museum and the art-related collections of the Bodleian Library’s Department of Oriental Collections (including those held at the Oriental Institute Library). Its primary focus is Far Eastern art, architecture and archaeology (especially China but also Japan and Korea); the art, architecture and archaeology of the Islamic World and of the Indian Sub-continent.
  • Haskell Collection
    A closed-stack collection of French salon criticism and rare auction catalogues. The French salon criticism collection was assembled by Francis Haskell (1928-2000), Oxford’s second Professor of the History of Art. It is a unique assemblage of original publications (some of which are in the Rare Book Room) and photocopies detailing the opinions of French salon critics 1700-1901. (Many of these sources are now publicly available on the web.) The collection is complemented by the Deloynes collection of 18th-early 19th century French art criticism (on microfiche); and also by the Taylor Institution's library holdings of works by French literary figures writing on art.
  • The former library of the History of Art Department's was originally designed to complement the holdings of the Ashmolean Museum’s former Western Art Library (see below). The collection is particularly strong in the historiography and methodology of art history; the history of taste in the 18th century, including the Grand Tour; and the art market in 19th century France. As of 2007, new titles acquired in these subject areas are added to the new, “Library of Congress” (LC) classification sequence (see below).
  • The “Library of Congress” (LC) classification sequence was introduced to the Sackler in 2007 as part of the Bodleian Libraries' rationalisation of library holdings across the university. This classification system is used by most major North American research libraries and also, in a modified form, by many UK libraries. It is an alphanumeric system, with most books on art and architecture beginning with the letter “N” (History of Photography begins with “T”). See an outline of the system (Class N: Fine Arts).
  • The Rare Book Room is a closed stack area containing most of the Sackler’s pre-1850 materials, as well as some more recent, valuable items. Titles are listed on SOLO and may be requested at the Sackler’s Ground Floor Help Desk.
  • The Western Art Collection originated with the Ashmolean Museum’s Western Art Department's Library. Its holdings comprehensively reflect those of the Ashmolean’s Western Art collections in the fine and decorative arts, from ca. 1100 CE. Particular strengths include publications on paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from the Renaissance to the present. Geographical areas covered include not only Western Europe and North America, but also Australia, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Latin America of the colonial and post-colonial periods. As of 2007, new titles acquired in these subject areas are added to the “Library of Congress” (LC) classification sequence (see above).
  • The Wind Room contains a closed-stack collection comprising (mostly) publications purchased by, or in memory of Oxford's first Professor of the History of Art, Edgar Wind (1900-1971), both for himself and also for the History of Art Department. While there is a strong focus on the art of Italy and on iconography and iconology (Wind was Erwin Panofsky’s first doctoral student), the collections reflect Professor Wind’s extremely broad research interests. New publications in Wind’s areas of interest continue to be collected. Early publications (15th - 18th centuries) are housed in the Wind Room itself with more recent publications housed either in the Sackler's open-stacks or at the Bodleian Libraries' offsite facility. Non-book materials relating to Edgar Wind during his Oxford years also may be found in other locations.
    Connect here to the Edgar Wind & Oxford pages for further information.
By virtue of its status as a copyright library, many UK publications on art and architecture arrive at the Bodleian Libraries  through the Legal deposit agreement. Some of these are transferred to the Sackler but, for reasons of space, many titles remain at the Offsite Facility. Please note that this facility is not open to readers.
Bodleian/Weston Libraries sub-collections
  • Oxford University theses and dissertations may be consulted at the Weston Library. Copies of some History of Art Department theses and dissertations have been deposited with the Sackler; they are housed at the Offsite Facility and may be requested to the Sackler. Recent Oxford PhD theses are also available digitally, on ORA.
  • The Douce Book and Print Collection The bequest of Francis Douce (1757-1834) includes prints, drawings, coins, books and illuminated manuscripts. Materials are divided between the Bodleian Library (Duke Humfrey’s Library, Weston Library and Modern Papers Reading Room) with some items held by the Print Room, Department of Western Art, Ashmolean Museum (see below).
  • John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera (Bodleian Library)
    The John Johnson Collection comprises printed ephemeral materials (eg. posters, playbills) dating from the 18th century to 1939.  It is partly accessible online.
  • The Weston Library holds a superlative collection of illuminated manuscripts, and hence secondary materials in support of their study (including paleography) are housed with them, not at the Sackler. Many of these illuminated manuscript pages can be found on ARTstor and Digital Bodleian. Books on the related field, stained glass, are similarly housed at the Bodleian, not at the Sackler. The Weston Library also holds many other art-related Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections.

Other libraries with art- & architecture-related collections
  • Balfour Library: This library is attached to the Pitt Rivers Museum, and also functions as the teaching and research library of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. While there are some overlaps, its holdings on anthropology, ethnography and art history mostly cover cultural groups and geographical areas not addressed by the Sackler’s collections.
  • The Continuing Education Library collects in support of the many art and architecture courses taught at the Continuing Education Department.
  • Oxford Brookes University (Headington Campus) Library includes an extensive collection of books in support of its architecture, fine arts and history of art programmes. It includes the former library collection of Modern Art Oxford (Oxford MoMA).
  • The Ruskin School of Art Library has a small but good collection of key catalogues, texts and periodicals on the history of art (drawing, colour, perception and perspective) and especially modern and contemporary art.
  • The Taylor Institution Research Collections include the Strachan Collection of 19th and 20th century livres dartiste. (See Giles Barber and Eunice Martin. French livres dartiste in Oxford University collections [Oxford, 1996].) The library holds important texts by writers (mostly French) on art and travel. Publications on literary/art movements such as Futurism, Surrealism and Symbolism are extensively collected. The Taylor collects in support of the film studies programme. The Sir Robert Taylor Collection, the 18th century architect with whom the institution originated, comprises a small collection of original drawings and illustrated architecture books. (See David Gilson. Books from the library of Sir Robert Taylor in the library of the Taylor Institution, Oxford [Oxford, 1973].)
  • Worcester College Architectural Library, Drawings and Print collections The College has an important collection of architectural drawings by Inigo Jones, Nicholas Hawksmoor and others, which came from the bequest of George Clarke (1660-1736). (See John Harris and A.A. Tait. Catalogue of the drawings by Inigo Jones, John Webb and Isaac de Caus at Worcester College, Oxford [Oxford, 1979].) Some later drawings by William Burges and others also form part of the collection. Researchers should make an appointment. Worcester's George Clark Print Collection may be searched online. If not available at the Bodleian or the Sackler, titles in the Cyril Eland Collection of Architectural Books may be consulted by members of the university; an appointment is necessary.

Objects and Images

Physical & Digital Collections

Ashmolean Museum
The Museum's holdings are extensive.

Ashmolean Departments & Sub-collections
Department of Eastern Art
Holdings comprise art from the Islamic World, the Indian sub-continent, South-East Asia, China, Japan and Korea. Ceramics, sculpture, metalwork, paintings, prints are a particular focus.

Department of Western Art 
Holds a wide range number of individual collections, some of which are digitised.

  • The Christopher Hewett Collection 
    Comprises prints, drawings, paintings, sculpture and books, including livres d’artiste mainly by 20th century French artists. These complement the Strachan Collection at the Taylor Institution (See Giles Barber and Eunice Martin. French livres d’artiste in Oxford University collections [Oxford, 1996]). (NOTE: Not available online)
  • The Cook and Wedderburn Collection
    Contains books and other materials accumulated by Sir Edward Tyas Cook and Alexander Wedderburn during the preparation of their edition of the Works of John Ruskin (published 1903-1912). It includes early editions of Ruskin’s writings, as well as the publications Cook and Wedderburn consulted during the course of their research. (NOTE: Not available online)
  • The Elements of Drawing
    Online resource documenting John Ruskin’s Teaching Collection.
  • F. W. Hope Collection
    Formed by Frederick William Hope (1797-1862). It comprises a large collection of portraits (including portraits of early scientists) and other items, including books. Hope also assembled a collection of about 160,000 portrait and topographical engravings, as well as other prints, both unbound and in illustrated books, together with a number of drawings and photographs. Many of the works appear in several different states and forms of reproduction, thus constituting a significant resource for the study of the history of reproductive prints. (NOTE: Not available online)
    While much of the Hope Collection is held by the Ashmolean’s Western Art Department some of its books are at the Sackler Library and can be found on SOLO. Most of the Hope books have a variety of collection stamps and the SOLO records indicate these variations.
    Hope also built up a large collection of (painted) portraits which he bequeathed to the University of Oxford.
  • Italian Prints Collection
    C15th & C16th Italian prints, mostly from the collection of the English antiquary Francis Douce (1757-1834).
  • Pissarro Archive
    Comprises paintings, prints, drawings, books, and letters by Camille, Lucien, Orovida, and other members of the Pissarro family. (NOTE: Not available online)
  • Print Room (Western Art Department)
    One of the UK's finest collections of European graphic arts from the fifteenth century to the present day.
  • Silver Collection
    One of the most important museum collections worldwide.
  • The Sutherland Collection
    Presented to the University in 1837 and subsequently transferred to the Ashmolean from the Bodleian. It comprises Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion and Bishop Burnet’s History of His Own Time, both of which have been extensively grangerized (interleaved with ca. 19,000 prints and drawings) and are important illustrative sources for English 16th-17th century studies. 
    (NOTE: Not available online)
  • The Gwynn Talbot Collection comprises books, prints, maps and drawings relating to Russian topography, particularly that of St. Petersburg. (NOTE: Not available online)
  • Western Art Drawings Online
    Images from the museum's Print Room, one of the world's finest and most extensive collections of European prints and drawings. The database includes digitised images of all the Italian, French, French Ornament and Russian drawings, as well as some of the English and German drawings.
  • Western Art Paintings Online 
    Images of the Paintings Collection held by the Western Art Department.

Other Oxford Collections

  • Bate Collection
    Approx. 2,000 musical instruments dating from the Renaissance period to modern times.
  • Digital Bodleian
    Images from a large variety of Bodleian Special Collections resources.
  • Christ Church Picture Gallery and Drawings Collection 
    Holds a world-class collection of circa 200 paintings and approximately 2000 drawings, originating with John Guise (1682/3-1765) and William Fox-Strangways (1795-1865).
  • History of Science Museum
    Located in the original Ashmolean Museum building the collection includes early scientific instruments such as astrolabes, cameras, telescopes, etc.
  • Modern Art Oxford
    Founded in 1965 as the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford ("Oxford MoMA"), MAO specialises in exhibiting the work of contemporary artists.
  • Pitt Rivers Museum
    Houses the university's anthropological, ethnographic and world archaeology collections.
  • Visual Resources Centre, History of Art Department 
    Houses a collection of over 170,000 35mm slides, c.60,000 3¼” plate glass slides and a photographic archive. Other image collections include the Arras collection of portrait drawings, the Bartsch collection of engravings, the Beal collection of postcards, the Calman Collection and Wilhelm (William) Cohn's photographs of Western art. (NOTE: Not available online)