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Image of Books and stained glass windows in the Old Library

Old Library

Our historic Old Library holds rare books and manuscripts, as well as the Jesuan Collection of writings by members of the College.

Until 1912 the College library was housed on the second floor of the west range of Cloister Court in the room now known as the Old Library. This small historic library still contains around 9,000 books, in handsome oak bookcases dating from 1662.

The Old Library is mainly a resource for research relating to its holdings. The Quincentenary Library is the College's working library, used by most academic staff and students. 

Historical records from the time the College was founded, and even of the priory preceding it, are kept in the College Archives.

Our collection

The Old Library collection is particularly strong in theology, classics, law, history, and travel writing. An adjoining room contains the College’s collection of manuscripts, including 78 medieval and 25 oriental manuscripts, as well as the library formed by the father of Thomas Robert Malthus, and the Jesuan Collection of books by and about members of the College.

Only a small proportion of the Old Library has been added to the University’s online catalogue. However, the books we hold that originate from before 1550 have been catalogued. You can view a list of our incunabula (books printed before 1501) and find later works (printed in the UK up to 1801) in the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). On the ESTC website select ‘Advanced search’ and choose ‘Library name’ from the drop down menu, entering ‘Cambridge University Jesus College’ in the search box, along with any other keywords such as authors or titles. 

The Malthus Collection held in the Old Library has now been fully catalogued. Records can be found in Cambridge University Library’s iDiscover catalogue. You can also read a report on the cataloguing process for this collection.

The Library also houses the Jesuan Collection (reference class JES) of published works by past and present members of the College. These are gradually being added to the computer catalogue and may be consulted on request. All enquiries about the library’s holdings should be addressed to the Keeper of the Old Library in writing or by email at old-library@jesus.cam.ac.uk.

Research at the Old Library

You can arrange an appointment for a research visit to the Old Library by emailing the Keeper of the Old Library at old-library@jesus.cam.ac.uk. Please give details about the materials that you'd like to access. If it's the first time you're visiting the library, and you're not a member of the College, please bring a letter of recommendation with you. All visits are supervised.

Use of images and copyright

You are allowed take digital photographs of images or pages from our manuscripts or printed books where this can be done without damage, for the purpose of private research and study. Flash photography is not permitted. Copyright and/or publication right in the images must be assigned to Jesus College Cambridge.

You should seek permission to reproduce images from the Keeper of the Old Library before they are published. We reserve the right to charge a reproduction fee. Copyright in any reproduced images will remain with Jesus College Cambridge.

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