Cambridge University Library

A history of enlightened support

UL towerWhen Nigel de Thornton became Cambridge University Library’s earliest recorded benefactor in about 1278 by giving the land on which the Library stood until the 20th century, he was initiating a tradition of philanthropy which has come to form the very bedrock on which today's Library has been built – literally so in the case of the Rockefeller Foundation, which funded half the cost of constructing Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s famous building. For over 600 years Cambridge University Library has benefitted from donations by enlightened individuals, trusts, foundations and businesses – from the generosity of kings (George I and II) to Theodore Beza’s gift of his 5th-century manuscript of the Gospels and Acts in Greek and Latin, by way of hundreds of anonymous donors.

This tradition continues today, with transformative gifts from individual donors including Mr Tadao Aoi, Dr Gordon E. Moore, Dr Leonard Polonsky, and the donation of the Montaigne Library in memory of Gilbert de Botton.

In the past decade in particular, the Library has also benefitted greatly from grants awarded by bodies including The Polonsky Foundation, the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, The Andrew W Mellon Foundation, The Wellcome Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Their prescient support has made possible a wide range of innovations including a rolling programme of refurbishment, the benefits of which are already being experienced by scholars worldwide.

At the heart of every great university is a great library. At the heart of this great library are its benefactors, and Cambridge sets great store in recognising and celebrating the contribution of its supporters. To find out more about how you can contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact us.