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“To remain in the common library for ever”: the origins of Cambridge University Library

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What did Cambridge University Library look like at the time of Loring and Hunden’s donations? Although there was no formal library in 1416, books had been given and loaned to the University since the mid-fourteenth century. The earliest books were deposited as security against money loans and stored in locked chests. The library collection, however, rapidly outgrew this limited space, as donations from University academics increased.

By 1470 three rooms in the central ‘Schools’ buildings had been specifically designated as a library, demonstrating the increasing centrality of the library to university life. The earliest surviving catalogue, from 1424, lists 122 volumes. This number had nearly tripled by 1473 when a second catalogue was compiled, largely through the generosity of the University’s early benefactors.