Rare works on show to celebrate 600 years of University Library

Bea Lundy 4 February 2016

An exhibition is being prepared to mark 600 years of Cambridge University Library, displaying Shakespeare’s first folio, drafts of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which are dotted with drawings by his children, and a record of England’s first public dissection.

The University Librry, older than both the British Library and Vatican Library, was first mentioned by name in two wills in 1416. The library now holds nine million books, journals, maps and magazines, as well as iconic cultural and literary treasures.

The exhibition, called Lines of Thought, will show rare literary texts, such as the earliest reliable text for 20 of Shakespeare’s plays, and the more modern A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

Moreover, much older texts will be shown, including a second century AD fragment of Homer’s Odyssey, and the Nash Papyrus, which is a 2000 year old copy of the Ten Commandments.

As well as Lines of Thought, there will also be dozens of celebratory events throughout 2016 to mark the special occasion, a highlight of which will be the library's 17 storey tower being lit up as part of the e-Luminate Festival in February.

A free iPad app will also be released to give readers the chance to interact with “six of the most revolutionary texts” in the library’s collection, including Newton’s annotated copy of Principia Mathematica and William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament into English.

A second exhibition will be launched in October 2016, which will replace the texts of Lines of Thought with unusual curiosities and oddities.

University Librarian Anne Jarvis said: “For six centuries, the collections of Cambridge University Library have challenged and changed the world around us.”

“Our 600th anniversary is a chance to celebrate one of the world’s oldest and greatest research libraries, and to look forward to its future.”