The Collection

The Library covers all aspects of Greek and Roman antiquity, including texts, language and literature, history and civilisation, art and archaeology, numismatics, epigraphy and papyrology.

The Institute of Classical Studies is responsible for the primary collection of reference material, including dictionaries, encyclopaedias, corpora, excavation reports, first publications of papyri and inscriptions, and standard texts of ancient authors.  This part of the collection may not be borrowed. The ICS is also responsible for most of the Library's electronic resources.

The Hellenic and Roman Societies maintain responsibility for the complementary collection of books and periodicals – about two-thirds of the collection - which may be borrowed. Many arrive as review books for the Societies’ periodicals, the Journal of Hellenic Studies, the Journal of Roman Studies and Britannia, and an extensive exchange programme allows for the accession of many periodicals in exchange for these titles, and the ICS’ Bulletin of Classical Studies.  The Societies’ journals play a unique and major role in the growth of the Library collections.

Facts & Figures

The collection currently stands at just over 150,000 volumes. This includes almost 130,000 monographs and 22,000 periodicals. 20% of the material is unique at point of acquisition and 15% remains unique. 50% of the material is published outside the UK, and is particularly strong in mainstream European languages and Modern Greek. The annual growth rate for books and periodicals is approximately 3,000 volumes. Most importantly, the entirety of the Library’s stock (apart from the rare books) is on open access.   

Rare books & Archives

The Library holds about 2000 old and rare books (1501-1800), travel diaries and published books by travellers in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean in the 18th and 19th centuries, and an important archive on ancient mosaics.                          

Highlights include

  • The diaries, notebooks, sketchbooks and published works of Robert Wood
  • The travel diaries of Mabel and Theodore Bent
  • The David Smith Mosaic Archive, which consists of books, periodicals, pamphlets, photographs and slides, represents the residue of a lifetime's research on ancient mosaics by David Smith, one of the foremost authorities on Roman mosaics.
  • Several sixteenth-century editions of the Roman historian Livy from the library of Dr. A.H. McDonald (one is our oldest book, published in 1501 and another was given him by the economist John Maynard Keynes).
  • Ptolemy’s Geography edited by the famous geographer Gerhard Mercator (1605)
  • A few annotated books from the library of Michael Ventris, who deciphered the pre-Greek language Linear B.
  • The works of Virgil, printed by the best English printer, John Baskerville, in 1757 and including Baskerville’s type specimen sheet.
  • A.E. Housman’s annotated copy of his Latin dictionary, edited by Lewis and Short.
  • An edition of the Roman poet Martial published in 1544 and inscribed to his teacher, Conrad Pelikan, by the editor, the famous Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner.

Electronic Resources

The Library has a growing collection of electronic resources, some are accessible only on-site, but many are now available by remote access: we are particularly pleased to offer the most important classics journals from JSTOR to readers off-site.

The Institute of Classical Studies is at the forefront of research into digital classics and is currently engaged in a number of projects.  

Important databases which the Library subscribes to include:

  • Thesaurus Linguae Graecae – for searching Greek texts
  • Thesaurus Linguae Latinae – for searching Latin texts
  • Brill’s New Jacoby – translations and commentary with texts available via Jacoby’s Die Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker
  • The Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum – searches by author, keywords, regions and sites
  • Bibliographie Papyrologique / Subsidia Papyrologia – covers material from 1932
  • L'AnnĂ©e Philologique – the most well-known bibliographical database for Classics which covers material from 1924
  • Hellas – a bibliographic database of literature on travel to Greece and Asia Minor until the mid-20th century

Further information