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Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera

The circular dome and drum  of the Radcliffe Camera is one of the most distinctive landmarks in a city full  of distinctive buildings. The camera (the word means simply "room") was built  1737-1749 with £40,000 bequeathed by Dr John Radcliffe, the royal  physician.

The  Radcliffe Camera was intended to house a new library, and designs were called  for from several leading architects, including Nicholas Hawksmoor (responsible  for much of All Soul's College) and James Gibbs.

It was  Gibbs who won the competition, with his elegant Palladian design, though his  final plans drew heavily on earlier work by Hawksmoor. Gibbs was also  responsible for the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, in Trafalgar Square,  London.

Originally the library in the Radcliffe Camera held both scientific and  general books, but those collections were gradually moved to other University  libraries, so that today the Camera functions as the main reading room of the  Bodleian Library. The finished building holds some 600,000 books in underground  rooms beneath Radcliffe Square.

Sadly,  the Radcliffe Camera is not open to the public.

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