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An exhibition celebrating King George I’s gift of 30,000 books and manuscripts to Cambridge University Library - including the celebrated eighth-century Moore Bede, the world’s first atlas to include city plans, and a previously unknown Erasmus poem – is now open to the public.

His Royal Favour: the Books that Built the Library, which was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester on Thursday October 1, looks at how the remarkable royal gift transformed the Library’s collections like no other donation before or since.

Painstakingly collected at huge expense by the Bishop of Ely John Moore, the 30,000 books and manuscripts he accumulated include many unique surviving copies. When Moore died in 1714, a day before Queen Anne, the fate of his collection was a hot topic, and the high price asked placed it out of reach of many private book collectors. In the end, the only person who could afford them was George I, who was persuaded to present the collection to Cambridge in recognition of the University’s loyalty to the new Hanoverian king.

The kingly gift trebled the size of the University Library overnight and transformed it into an internationally significant research centre for the first time.

Cambridge University Librarian, Anne Jarvis, said: “Every book George gave is of great historical significance as an artefact as well as by virtue of its contents. The 300th anniversary of their arrival in Cambridge is the perfect opportunity to celebrate a treasure that remains at the heart of our mission to this day.

“The importance of the collection can be measured by the number of unique early printed books, the number of times books and manuscripts have been consulted by researchers, and the number of items that have featured as star exhibits in many of the previous displays we’ve held at the Library.”

In addition to the exhibition, which is on display in the Milstein Exhibition Centre until 23 December 2015, you can find out more about the books that built the library in our virtual exhibition.

A selection of items on display, including the Moore Bede, Moore Psalter and the Book of Deer, have also been fully digitised and added to the Cambridge Digital Library.

You can also find out more information about items in the exhibition on our Special Collections blog.