Cambridge lies on the River Cam, in an area of relatively low-lying terrain just south of the Fens in East Anglia, about 50 miles north of London. With a population of over 126,000 (including students), it is the second largest city in Cambridgeshire after Peterborough.
The city’s skyline is dominated by the enchanting King’s College Chapel, the colossal tower of the Cambridge University Library, the spire of the Our Lady and the English Martyrs Church on Hills Road, St John’s College Chapel tower, and on the city’s southern border the chimney of Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The center of Cambridge is mostly of historic, largely university and commercial buildings, dominated by large green areas such as Jesus Green, Midsummer Common, and Parker’s Piece which hosted the first ever game of association football.
From as early as the middle of the fourteenth century, the University of Cambridge owned and kept in chests in its treasury a small collection of books. However, it was in the second decade of the fifteenth century that the first University Library found its home on the newly built site.
The Old Library houses a collection of manuscripts which includes medieval and post-medieval manuscripts and annotated proof copies of published books. It also houses some items from the College Archives for display purposes. These include medieval and early modern charters and some letters. Subject to restrictions imposed by their current physical condition, the Old Library’s manuscripts may be consulted in the Jerwood Library, by prior appointment only.