The Norrington Room – Oxford, England - Atlas Obscura

The Norrington Room

Once one of the largest rooms full of books in the world, this bookstore basement is still a treat for bibliophiles. 


Blackwell’s books in Oxford, between the entrance to Trinity College and the Weston Library, is popular with tourists. Most visitors simply browse the piles of Harry Potter, Inspector Morse, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis books and then leave. But if you take the stairs leading downstairs, you’ll find the Norrington Room, a huge basement of academic books.

The store first opened in the 1870s at 50 Broad Street, but was successful enough that it grew to take over some of the neighboring buildings. But by the 1960s, it had grown so large that there was nowhere to go but down, so the original Victorian basement of the space was excavated and turned into the cavernous room you see today. 

The Norrington Room was named after Sir Arthur Norrington, who was then President of Trinity College. At the time of its creation, it was the world’s largest single display of books in one room, holding over 150,000 volumes on two and a half miles of shelves.

The world of bookselling has obviously changed since the 1960s but the Norrington Room remains a testament to the breadth of human knowledge, and the lengths (and depths) sometimes needed to bring that knowledge to the public.

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September 24, 2019

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