The earliest item in the Fellows' Library is a cuneiform tablet approximately 2500 years old. This is part of an eclectic collection of books and manuscripts which occupies eight rooms. Books have been central to the School since its foundation and we have volumes given by William of Wykeham in the 1380s, including a life of Thomas Becket by William of Canterbury, with one of the earliest representations of Becket, and a late fourteenth century copy of Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon. Over the centuries there have been many major gifts, and indeed only a relatively small percentage of the collection has been purchased. The books are used as aids to teaching: the Mathematics department brings in sets to look at the first edition of Newton's Principia, and the Biology department makes use of Hooke's Micrographia, the first text to use 'cell' with a scientific meaning and with its spectacular plates of insect life.
The Eccles Room is housed in what was the barrel store for the Brewery, construction of which started in 1395. It was opened in 1994 as a Fellows' Library teaching room, having been refurbished by the generosity of Viscount Eccles (G, 1919-23), who gave his collection of private press books. The room now houses English literature, Mathematics and Science texts, and, as a result of the generosity of Viscount Gough (G, 1955-59), the magnificent set of Sir Joseph Banks' Florilegium - 743 hand-coloured plates of the plants discovered on Captain Cook's first circumnavigation in the Endeavour.
Above the Porters' Lodge is Clerk's Room, also built in the final decade of the fourteenth century. Here is to be found a small collection of chained books given by Sir Robert Cecil, Elizabeth I's Chief Secretary: until the middle of the sixteenth century all the books were chained and many volumes in the library show signs on their upper boards of the removal of the rivets.
Clerk's Room contains a fine collection of English Civil War pamphlets and related texts, travel books, and the principal part of the Bible collection given by Cuthbert Hamilton Turner (Coll, 1872-79) - over 300 editions of the Bible, including such highlights as a Complutensian Polyglot with the signature of Thomas Cranmer, and the first seven editions of the New Testament of Erasmus.
Clerk's Room is also notable for its fireplace, with the initials P and R, believed to stand for 'Philippus Rex', and thought to have been installed on the occasion of the wedding of Philip and Mary in Winchester Cathedral in 1554.
Directly above Outer Gate is Junior Poser, the Librarian's office, another fourteenth century room, where are to be found classical texts and many of the books given by Alexander Thistlethwayte in 1768. The Thistlethwayte gift, one of the most remarkable in the history of the library, was of approximately 3500 volumes of literary texts in French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek and English, and changed the whole nature of the library which, up till that time, had been predominantly a collection of religious material in Latin and Greek.
Next to Junior Poser, and in the Warden's Lodgings is Senior Poser, a fine panelled room of 1697 with fire surround carvings by Edward Pierce, who was responsible for the woodwork for Chapel now to be found in New Hall. This is the Archivist's office and contains the collection of Long Rolls, the earliest of which records the school list in 1653.
Long Gallery was designed by George Stanley Repton, fifth son of Humphrey Repton, and built in 1832-33. This is the largest of the library rooms and contains most of the early religious texts, together with some interesting special collections, notably the collection of English travel books and maps given by Edward Gaspar Box (D, 1868-72). The room contains some of the fine and royal bindings: there are examples of books bound for Elizabeth I, James I, the first three Georges, and Louis XIII of France, as well as a number of identifiable European nobility.
To the south of the Long Gallery is an annexe (the D-Day Landing) which displays our collection of D-Day landing maps and associated documents and photographs. Perhaps the most remarkable of the Library's rooms is Warden Harmar, which is used as a reading room for outside researchers, both for the Library and for the Archives, and for small A level sets using the library. This room was built by John Harmar (Coll, 1569-72) on his election as Warden in 1597. It was constructed over the old bake-house which appears to have been a way of providing underfloor heating, and Harmar used it as his study. In this room, as a member of the Oxford Committee B, he translated the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation, for the King James' Bible. The room houses his collection of bibles, which he bequeathed to the School. The room is dominated by the extravagant fireplace surround installed in 1615 by Harmar's successor as Warden, Nicholas Love. The piece, together with the wainscot, cost £20.11.10 and the whole floor had to be lowered by 18 inches in order to accommodate it. Our most notable recent gift is housed here: an almost complete set of first editions of the works of Anthony Trollope (Coll, 1827-30), all of which are signed with varying degrees of affection to his son Henry Merivale Trollope. This unique collection is housed in one of Trollope's own bookcases, kindly loaned by Mrs Celia Salwey, and was the gift in March 2007 of Albert H. Gordon, honorary fellow and honorary Old Wykehamist. Applications to use the library should be addressed to the Librarian by post or by email: email@example.com
The Friends of Winchester College have produced a colour feature on the Fellows' Library.