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The Old Library Magdalene College

The Old Library

The Old Library, which is distinct from the Pepys Library, is Magdalene’s collection of rare books and manuscripts which has evolved throughout the history of the College. The Old Library also collects modern publications relating to the College and to Cambridge more widely. 

Books for lending to the novice monks were first housed in the Prior’s lodgings in First Court - where the Old Library and Parlour are now - and thus there have been books kept in First Court since the College had any books to keep. Stored in the damp conditions of the Chapel roof space in the mid-seventeenth century, a more suitable home was found for the books in First Court in 1733, moving to its present position in 1847, with the addition of a new reading room in the 1920s and a major renovation in the 1960s.

The backbone of the Old Library collection is shaped by major bequests from six past College Masters: Thomas Nevile, Barnaby Goche, James Duport, Daniel Waterland, A C Benson and notably Peter Peckard. Peckard’s sizeable collection of books contributes to the Old Library’s strength in 17th and 18th century theological works.  

Further details about the history of the collection can be found in M E J Hughes, The Pepys Library and Historic Collections of Magdalene College (Scala, 2015).

Catalogues and Research Tools

We are currently working on various projects to provide online research tools for the Old Library collection, including cataloguing our books to appear on the University of Cambridge's 'LibrarySearch' Catalogue.

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Information for Researchers

Researchers wishing to use the resources of the Old Library must contact us in advance, outlining their academic and research credentials and their need to consult specific items in our historic collections.

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Photography and Filming

Photography is not permitted in the Old Library. Images can be purchased from the Old Library material for private use. Please see Photographic Images, Reproduction Fees and Filming for further details on ordering or publishing images of Old Library material.

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Public Engagement and Outreach

The Old Library is open to the public on the first Thursday of the month from 11am to 1pm, and additional opening times are advertised for special exhibitions throughout the year.

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Further Information

Further information about the Old Library of Magdalene College.

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