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Lines of Thought

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

In 2016, Cambridge University Library is celebrating 600 years as one of the world’s greatest libraries. The wills of William Loring and William Hunden, both proved in March 1416, bequeathed books to ‘the common library of all scholars of the University’. Over the course of the last six centuries, the Library’s collections have grown from a few dozen volumes on a handful of subjects into an extraordinary accumulation of over eight million books, maps, manuscripts and journals, enhanced by an ever-increasing range of electronic resources. From its beginnings as an asset for a tiny community of theologians and canon lawyers in the medieval university, the Library’s mission has expanded to serve the international scholarly community and now, through its digitisation projects, to reach new audiences across the world.

The Library marks the anniversary with a major exhibition entitled Lines of Thought: Discoveries that Changed the World. Across six themes, this exhibition highlights key moments in the evolution of human thought. They show how the collections here in Cambridge represent and underpin some of the most significant developments in human history. The books, manuscripts, archives and digital objects we house do not stand in isolation. Thousands of lines of thought run through them, back into the past and forward into tomorrow’s teaching, learning, research and innovation.

Many of these items are available in a free to download iPad app, with expert discussion and additional contextual materials. You can find out more about the Library's 600th celebrations here.


Much of the content in this collection has been made possible by a generous gift from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation.
Under the leadership of Dr Leonard Polonsky and as part of its International Digitisation Project, The Polonsky Foundation has provided major funding towards the development of the digital library's infrastructure.