History of the Library

In 1924, the Museum’s founding benefactor Lewis Evans gave a unique library of contemporary books and manuscripts. The Lewis Evans library has provided the focus around which a broader museum library grew, through many individual purchases, donations and the acquisition of a number of significant collections.

When the Radcliffe Observatory moved out of Oxford in the 1930s, the Museum received its historic instruments but also its important collection of early astronomical pamphlets, prints and printed ephemera; part of its archive; and a selection of its books. Other library collections which have been absorbed include the idiosyncratic library and archive of the Museum’s first curator, R.T. Gunther; the Stapleton Collection of rare books and manuscripts on Islamic alchemy; many of the older books and some archives from the former University Observatory; a collection of early scientific books from University College in 1962; and, in the 1970s, the library of the Royal Microscopical Society.


Portrait of Lewis Evans holding a sundial

Portrait of Lewis Evans by W. E. Miller, c. 1920. Oil on canvas.