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There are now more than 10,000 items in this collection, to which new publications and purchases are still added. The collection contains Cambridge imprints and books about Cambridge, both town and University, from the 16th century to the present day. Such a collection existed by the 1870s, but was greatly improved by John Willis Clark, University Registrary, whose bequest in 1910 added several thousand items. Clark began collecting literature connected with Cambridge in the 1860s. He was interested in the architecture of the University and in the growth of the collegiate system. For this reason, there are also works relating to Oxford and Eton in the collection. Clark was fortunate enough to acquire the collection of Rev. Stephen Parkinson, Fellow of St. John's College, who held on to many programmes, fly-sheets and proposals that would otherwise have disappeared.

Henry Bradshaw, who has enriched many other collections in the library also contributed to Cam when, on Bradshaw's death, Clark acquired many items relating to the University. Clark made assiduous use of catalogues of material relating to Cambridge issued by A. R. Smith in 1878 and of Robert Bowes in 1894 to identify and fill gaps in his collection. More recently the collection was enriched by the transfer of the Syndics Library of the University Press. 

The Library continues to pursue a policy of collecting material relating to Cambridge and its surrounding area, and the collection includes not just academic works, but also general and popular literature, such as works on local villages, college ghosts or crime novels set in Cambridge. The collection also contains a large number of periodical publications, such as The Cambridge reviewThe gownsman and Granta. It also holds many college magazines. A separate collection, called Cam Papers, comprises ephemeral items produced by the University and its societies from their inception to the present. These include leaflets, posters, notices and programmes. This collection complements the University Archives, available through the Manuscripts reading room. See Specialist departmental catalogues for further information.


  • Bartholomew, A.T. Catalogue of the books and papers for the most part relating to the University, town, and county of Cambridge, bequeathed to the University by John Willis Clark. Cambridge, 1912. B125:7.CAM.2