The Warden and Fellows of Winchester College established a library at the beginning of the 15th century. It now contains more than ten thousand volumes, from medieval manuscripts to contemporary artists' books. The library is used regularly by pupils and their teachers and is open to researchers by appointment. Items from the collection are often on public exhibition in Treasury, the school’s museum. For more information or to make an appointment, please contact the Fellows' Librarian.
The Fellows’ Library has a long and well-documented history. Most of the collection was assembled between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, but it includes books acquired by the school in almost every decade since its foundation. The library was established for the use of the Warden and Fellows, who form the governing body and once lived as part of the community. While schoolmasters and chaplains seem also to have had access to the Fellows’ Library from an early date, it remained separate from the school itself. It therefore has more in common with the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge colleges than with those of most other schools. Only in the twentieth century did pupils at Winchester begin to make regular use of the collections.
The Fellows’ Library has an exceptionally wide-ranging collection with many areas of particular strength. At the core of the library are extensive holdings of theology, history and classical literature, mostly acquired in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In the second half of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries, the contents of the library became more diverse through gifts and bequests of scientific books, English and foreign literature, and examples of early printing.
Two significant gifts to the library in the twentieth century have added new areas of strength: the Box collection of English road books and maps, and the Eccles Collection of artists’ books. The library continues to grow with new acquisitions of items relating to the history of the school and for use in teaching.
The main catalogue of printed books in the Fellows’ Library is hosted on the JISC Library Hub . To search our holdings go to ‘Advanced Search’ and choose ‘Winchester College’ from the list of libraries.
Detailed records of our incunabula (books printed before 1501) are included in the Material Evidence in Incunabula database.
Records for most of our early English books (1485-1700) may be found in the Electronic Short Title Catalogue.
The Fellows’ Library has also shared information with the following:
Medieval Libraries of Great Britain
The Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts
The British Armorial Bindings Database
The Iberian Books Project
A list of medieval manuscripts in the Fellows’ Library may be found in N.R. Ker and A.J. Piper, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, Vol. IV: Paisley to York (Oxford, 1992), pp. 603-637.
Richard Foster (ed.), 50 Treasures from Winchester College (London, 2019)
Paul Quarrie, Winchester College and the King James Bible (Winchester, 2011)
History of the Library
Walter Oakeshott, ‘Winchester College Library before 1750’, The Library, 5th series, vol 9:1 (1954), pp. 1-16.
J.M.G. Blakiston ‘Winchester College Library in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries’, The Library, 5th series 17 (1962), pp. 23-45.
J.M.G. Blakiston, ‘Unfamiliar Libraries XI: Winchester College’, The Book Collector 16:3 (Autumn 1967), pp. 297-304.
J.M.G. Blakiston, ‘The Fellows’ Library: Sir Thomas Phillips and after’, in R. Custance (ed.), Winchester College, sixth-centenary essays (Oxford, 1982), pp. 403-30.
James M.W. Willoughby, ‘College of St Mary the Virgin of Winchester’, in The Libraries of Collegiate Churches, Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, 15, 2 vols (London, 2013), II, pp. 595-861.
Carly Emma Watson, ‘The legacy of an eighteenth century gentleman: Alexander Thistlethwayte’s books in Winchester College Fellows’ Library’, PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham, 2013.
12th January 2021
Thanks to two generous grants, the Fellows' Library has acquired a late 15th-century copy of the Shareh Mulakhas Al-Jaghmini fī al-Hay'a (Commentary on the Compendium of Cosmology): an Arabic textbook of medieval astronomy.
20th October 2020
In the final instalment of our focus on Wordsworth, in this 250th anniversary year of his birth, we reveal a previously undiscovered treasure within the school's collection.
29th January 2020
An early colour-printed edition of the most popular astronomy book of the Middle Ages joins an impressive collection of history of science books in the Fellows’ Library,