All exhibitions will be curated as online exhibitions until further notice. They can be accessed below. It will not be possible to arrange group visits, until further notice. We hope to provide a virtual library tour in due course.
Caxton Chaucer Knight -  detail only

Thomas Willis (1621-1675): The Founder of Neurology

We are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Dr Thomas Willis, the founder of neurology, who was born on 27 January 1621. Thomas Willis is relatively unknown today but his medical legacy in neurology and other medical areas extends to this day. His impressive accomplishments and central standing in the emergence of modern science at Oxford makes highlighting his life, work and collaborations long overdue.

The library of St John’s College holds first editions and other early editions of all of Thomas Willis’s works except for one posthumous publication. The College also holds a good dozen letters of Willis with a focus on his work as a physician. The online exhibition introduces Thomas Willis’s work and life as illustrated by these holdings, looking not only at the books and letters, but also presenting his collaborations and legacy.

The exhibition is part of wider celebrations of Thomas Willis at Oxford University, initiated by Zoltán Molnár, Professor of Developmental Neurobiology at Oxford University and Tutorial Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford.

Throughout Hilary Term 2021 a series of interviews will discuss various aspects of Thomas Willis’s life, work and times. A list of these with links updated every Monday can be found at the start of the online exhibition. For a preview of what is to come, have a look at our trailer

Access the online exhibition here

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  • Stars & Surgery: History of Science Collections at St John’s College Library: Our Hilary Term 2020 exhibition focuses on astronomical and medical items in the library’s special collection. A mix of manuscripts, letters and early printed books, Stars & Surgery provides a glimpse into the understanding of science in the past. Read about some of the highlights below. This exhibition is an extension of the event Thinking 3D: History of Science in Oxford College Libraries, which took place on 25th October 2019.
  • An online exhibition of women's history at St John's: This online exhibition showcases both the history of women at St John's College, and the women within the collections. It has drawn together the College's collections from the Library, Archive, and Pictures. The physical exhibition was planned for Trinity Term 2020 in the Library & Study Centre, to coincide with the variety of events planned to mark 40 Years of Women at St John's College. Due to the current restrictions caused by the development of Covid-19, the closest approximation achievable to a physical exhibition was this online exploration of the women in the College's collections. While this provides an overview of what would have been the exhibition, there are limits to an online exhibition. The sense of wonder and engagement with collections that is magnified when you can see the original object is difficult to capture in a digital replica. However, there are benefits to digital exhibitions: images of multiple pages within a book can now be displayed, and the exhibition can be visited at any time (and in any location) to suit you. A plain text PDF version of the exhibition is available here


  • Special Collections Today and Tomorrow: The exhibition illustrates how – in the new Library and Study Centre – the College’s outstanding Special Collections will become more accessible for students, scholars and the public, who will be invited to think, read, reflect and write about the Library's treasures – and simply to enjoy the books’ timeless beauty. Discover some of the exhibition highlights online. A printed copy of the exhibition booklet can be acquired free of charge at the Library Desk or by emailing (as long as stock lasts). 
  • Richard Murphy (1927-2018): celebrating the Anglo-Irish poet by displaying materials generously donated by the distinguished Yeats scholar Dr Joseph M. Hassett. The exhibition was curated in honour of the renowned scholar of Irish literature Professor John Kelly, Fellow of St John’s College since 1976.










Please note that it will not be possible to visit any part of the library until further notice.

If you would like to plan ahead, please complete the online forms as outlined below.

All library tours are arranged at the discretion of the College Librarian.

Exhibition, Laudian Library, and/or Old Library

Complete the online form to enquire about a group visit to see the current exhibition, the Laudian Library and/or the Old Library.

Whether a visit can be arranged depends on staff commitments and other College events that may take place at the time. Please note that groups are limited to a maximum of 12 people; larger groups should be prepared to discuss flexible timetabling. Bespoke displays of Special Collections items are only provided for groups with bona fide academic interests. Group visits cannot be accommodated during Trinity Term (after Easter to end-June/ early July).

Library & Study Centre

Complete the online form below to arrange a group visit to see the Library & Study Centre opened in 2019. Please read note the following before completing the form:

  • We cannot accommodate more than two group visits per week; please request a tour well in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Tours can take place only on weekdays between 9am-5pm, subject to prior agreement by the library staff.
  • Whenever possible, tours should take place during the vacation.
  • Tours cannot be accommodated during Trinity Term (after Easter to end-June/ early July).
  • During Michaelmas Term & Hilary Term, tours:
    • should ideally take place between noon and 2pm when the library is expected to be less busy
    • should be no longer than 45 minutes
    • should have no more than 15 participants
  • Talking is restricted to areas outside the reading rooms
  • Tours will not include the following parts: Special Collections stores, IT Room, Plant Room
  • The Mark Bedingham Seminar Room and the study rooms can only be viewed at times when they are not in use
  • Photography is not allowed inside the Library & Study Centre