Christ Church Library houses several exceptional collections of manuscripts, music, rare and early printed books and pamphlets, all of which are freely available for research.

The collections, built up over centuries by purchase, gift and bequest, contain many unique items and cover all subject areas, but they are particularly strong in:

  • Theology and liturgy
  • Classics
  • Numismatics
  • Early science and medicine
  • Natural history
  • Voyages and travels
  • Pamphlet literature from the 16th–20th centuries
  • Hebrew studies. 
  • Pre-1700 manuscripts of English and Italian music and pre-1700 printed music
  • Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)
  • The Brady Collection of Theatrical Ephemera
  • The Lord Portal Collection

We welcome enquiries about the collections from members of Christ Church, alumni and external researchers. Please contact us at

Information for Readers

  • Opening hours

    Monday–Friday: 10am–1pm and 2pm–4.30pm. All opening times are subject to staff availability. 

  • Essential information

    Special Collections is open to all members of Christ Church and to external readers. Please note that all readers are requested to book their visit in advance. To arrange your visit please contact us at, at least two working days in advance of your preferred date, and include the following information:

    • Library catalogue references for the items you would like to view. You may request a maximum of six items at any one time. To request and consult items, please use SOLO for printed books or use the separate catalogues listed on our Library catalogues page
    • The preferred day of your visit, and whether you would like to visit in the morning (10am–1pm), afternoon or both (2pm–4.30pm). We will then confirm your visit with you.
  • Further information

    Our Special Collections are usually consulted in the Upper Library, which is accessed via a flight of stairs. There is, unfortunately, no lift inside the Library. If you have any access requirements please contact Library staff and make them aware.

    If you are not a member of Christ Church please report to the Tom Quad porters’ lodge on St Aldates, and they will direct you to the Library.

    To help us protect our collections food and drinks are not permitted in the Upper Library. There is no cafe or refreshment facilities on site however, there are coffee shops and cafes nearby.

    Digitised versions of many of the items held in the Special Collections are available on our Digital Library

  • Rules and guidelines for Special Collections researchers

    • The Upper Library reading area is for manuscripts and rare books only unless in exceptional circumstances.
    • All readers are required to provide proof of identity when first registering to use Special Collections. UK visitors should bring photographic ID and proof of address. Visitors from overseas will need to bring a valid passport.
    • Limited reader spaces are available, and you must give a minimum of three working days’ notice when booking an appointment.
    • Readers should be aware that the Library entrance hall is monitored by CCTV at all times.
    • Christ Church reserves the right to refuse access to certain classes of materials including intrinsically fragile items and items undergoing conservation treatment or in an exhibition.
    • Bags, umbrellas and outer coats are not allowed in the Upper Library. Christ Church cannot accept any responsibility for personal belongings.
    • Eating, drinking, and smoking (including e-cigarettes) is not allowed in the Upper Library.
    • Readers are responsible for all materials that they are consulting. Please ensure that you handle items with extreme care, and with clean hands. Materials must be kept in their correct order. On no account may they be removed from the Upper Library.
    • Notes may be taken in pencil only. Never mark the materials in any way. Report any damage to Special Collections items.
    • Do not rest anything on items, bend back spines, or press hard to open materials. Avoid resting anything such as notes and laptops on the material. Appropriate supports and weights will be provided by the supervisor.
    • Photography is only allowed at the discretion of the supervisor and on completion of the necessary form.
    • It is the responsibility of the reader to obtain permission to publish from the copyright holder prior to publication of any material held in Christ Church collections.
    • In order to meet Christ Church’s obligations under data protection legislation, any records containing Special Category Data (as defined by the GDPR) relating to living individuals may not be copied either by or for researchers. This includes digital photography.

    July 2023

  • Teaching

    If you are a member of Christ Church teaching staff, we are also very happy to discuss developing special collections seminars for you and your students.