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Rare Books in the Bodleian Library: Children's literature

Guide to finding and using rare books in the Bodleian Library


Children's Books

The Library holds the Opie Collection, which was acquired in 1988 and contains approximately 20,000 children's books printed between the 16th and 20th centuries. Most of the collection has been reproduced on microfiche and readers are asked to use these in the first instance. Microfische are located in the Reference Area of the Rare Books & Manuscripts Reading Room. 

The majority of books for children were, and continue to be, acquired through legal deposit. A number of named early collections (such as Douce) also hold significant early children's books, and items can be located in the printed books catalogue available via SOLO (Search Oxford Libraries Online). 


Related collections

Below is a list of other archives held by the Library which include material relating to children's literature. In all instances, printed books can be located via SOLO, and more information on our archival holdings can be obtained by emailing

Children's writers: Archives and manuscript collections

Walter de la Mare
Alan Garner
Kenneth Grahame
Shirley Hughes (illustrator)
C. Day-Lewis
John Masefield
Philip Pullman (one MS.)
Christian Rossetti [limited]
J.R.R. Tolkien
The ‘Inklings’ (Charles Williams and Owen Barfield)
Maria Edgeworth
Jane Johnson
Science-fiction writers for teenagers and young adults:
Brain Aldiss
James Blish
Michael Moorcock

Exhibition Catalogues

'‘Children’: an exhibition to mark the year of the child' (Bodleian Library, 1979)

'J.R.R. Tolkien : life and legend : an exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the birth of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) (Bodleian, 1992)

'Early children's books in the Bodleian Library: An exhibition 25 September 1995 - 20January 1996 (Bodleian Library, 1995)

‘Magical tales: myth, legend & enchantment in children’s books’ ed. Carolyne Larrington & Diane Purkiss (Bodleian Library, 2013)