Treasures of Campion Hall: The Library

Today the main Library Room at Campion Hall balances the Dining Room, and fills all the narrow ground floor of the site Lutyens had at his disposal. The legend is that for aesthetic reasons (to enhance the feeling of height) he wanted the books to be arranged simply by size, with the smaller ones on the top shelves and the larger ones lower down. Fortunately the Librarians thought otherwise. Principal among these was Fr Vincent Bywater, to whom we owe the present classification system, with letters indicating the respective areas – including F for Fun (music, sport, etc.). But probably the Librarian to whom we owe most is Fr Norman Tanner, who was in charge for many years, ably assisted by Mr Laurence Weeks (fortunately still with us) and more recently by Miss Anne Watkins. 

One problem has been that over the years, more and more space has been needed to house the collections. Initially the Hall was catering mainly for classical students, with a sprinkling of mathematicians and scientists. These, usually undergraduates, were being trained to take up teaching posts in the many schools the Jesuit Provincia Angliae was then running. Theology at Oxford was viewed with distrust, and only in recent years - but with ever greater appreciation - have members of the Hall joined that faculty. Philosophy was different, as it came under the umbrella of "Greats". However, for many years the best stocked parts of the Library, apart from Classics (A "Ancient World"), were English literature (E) and History (H). The Library gradually took over a number of other rooms: the large Lecture Room was fitted with shelves, also the small "chapel" rooms that Lutyens had added (to cater for the many priests saying their individual Masses). One of these became the Librarian's Office; and the former Francis Xavier chapel was devoted to housing complete works of theologians (like Aquinas and Luther). On the First Floor, the computer room now houses Politics (Po), Economics (Ec) and Sociology (So), and the Art Room (Fr Ian Brailey's old chapel) now holds the special collection built up by Fr Vincent Turner. 

At present anyone searching for books on Theology (T) needs to look in different places: the Main Library, the Narrow Library (running parallel), the FX Room, and the Lecture Room, where some of the major spirituality (Sp) collections are housed. To assist in the process, there is an up to date card catalogue, but plans to computerize this are now on hold, awaiting the considerable funding needed. The future of the library probably lies in building up our Jesuitica, already quite strong, and the theology/spirituality/scripture sections. 

From the small rare book collection, most items were sold, but anything of Jesuit importance was donated to the great Leuven collection of Jesuitica, apart from a few books that passed into the Archives or joined the Province collection. However, exceptional among our holdings remain the 124 volumes of the Acta Sanctorum and (thanks to a recent donor) a rare copy of the infamous Monita Secreta that did such harm to the Society. Another library gem is the Duke of Alba's reprint of the Spanish mid-14th century Alba Bible (donated by the Duke at the inauguration of the new Campion Hall). Our one incunabulum is the 16th c. bound volume of two 15th c. commentaries on Aristotle's Physics, that had belonged to St Edmund Campion - a generous gift from the Merton College Library in 1936.