Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera at the University of Oxford
Radcliffe Square

The Radcliffe Camera

The Radcliffe Camera (Rad Cam to students and locals) is a stunning circular building in the heart of Oxford. It was designed by the architect James Gibbs and completed in 1749. The building is part of the Bodleian Library and was originally built to house the library’s scientific and mathematical books.

It’s one of Oxford’s most iconic landmarks and is a popular tourist attraction for visitors to the city. The building is made of local limestone and features a stunning dome that rises high above the city’s skyline. The dome is topped by a lantern that provides natural light to the reading room inside.

The building is not open to the general public, but visitors can still admire it’s impressive architecture from the outside. There are several vantage points around the city where you can do this, including from the nearby St Mary’s Church tower and the Bodleian Library’s Divinity School.

Visitors can also take a guided walking tour of Oxford that includes a visit to the Radcliffe Camera and other notable landmarks in the city. The building is particularly beautiful at sunset when the warm light of the setting sun illuminates the limestone facade and creates a magical atmosphere.

Seeing the Radcliffe Camera is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Oxford, whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or simply a lover of beautiful buildings.

Good to know

  1. The Radcliffe Camera was built between 1737 and 1749 and was designed by the English architect James Gibbs.
  2. It was originally built to house the Radcliffe Science Library, but it now houses the Radcliffe Humanities division of the University of Oxford.
  3. The building’s distinctive circular shape was chosen because it was believed to represent the mathematical perfection of the universe.
  4. The Radcliffe Camera is made of limestone and has a diameter of 40 feet.
  5. The building features a stunning rotunda that is 70 feet high and is topped by a dome.
  6. The Radcliffe Camera is often referred to as “Rad Cam” by Oxford students.
  7. The building is surrounded by several other notable structures, including the Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre, and All Souls College.
  8. General public access to this library is by guided tour only.
  9. Students, staff, and affiliated academic visitors of the University of Oxford automatically get access to the Bodleian Libraries when they join and for the duration of your status.
  10. Students and academics at other universities, as well as independent and company-affiliated researchers, can apply for a reader’s card from the Bodleian Library in order to access the building. 
  11. The Radcliffe Camera has been featured in several movies, including the Harry Potter series.
  12. The building is also used as a symbol of the University of Oxford and is featured on the covers of many Oxford publications.
  13. The Radcliffe Camera is a working library and part of the University of Oxford’s central Bodleian Libraries – 26 libraries across Oxford, including the Bodleian Old Library and the Weston Library. It is linked to the Bodleian Old Library by the underground Gladstone Link.

More from The Oxford Magazine