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The books that built the library

His royal favour

In September 1715, King George I made a gift to Cambridge University Library that would change it for ever. John Moore, Bishop of Ely and a voracious collector of books, had died the previous summer leaving an outstanding personal collection of over 30,000 books and manuscripts, and George was persuaded to reward Cambridge’s loyalty by presenting these volumes to the University, more than trebling the size of the Library overnight.

The newly acquired works included innumerable treasures both print and manuscript, and their arrival transformed the Library into an internationally important research centre for the first time. It also changed the face of Cambridge itself, leading to the construction of the Senate House at the heart of the city. From an eighth century manuscript of Bede to architectural and scientific masterpieces, personal diaries to unique early English imprints, Moore’s interests covered every subject and the books he gathered form an outstanding resource, central to academic research for three hundred years. This exhibition gives what can only ever be a glimpse into Moore’s remarkable collection, ‘forever styled the Royal Library’.

Exhibition curator Emily Dourish gives a video introduction to the exhibition, and another film discusses the newly discovered poem attributed to Erasmus. Selected items from the exhibition have been digitised and can be viewed in the Cambridge Digital Library collection. Curator tours are available on selected dates, and can be booked by visiting this booking page.