The history of the Middle Temple Library begins with the founding of the Inns of Court as schools and housing for student barristers in the 13th century. The Middle Temple was the home to the Knights Templar (made popularly known by The Da Vinci Code books by Dan Brown) until the 14th century, when it was dissolved. The Middle Temple Library was known to have existed prior to 1540, but the library was re-founded in 1641, when Robert Ashley gave his own personal collection to the library after his death; this comprised almost four thousand volumes. The Robert Ashley collection was mostly non-legal materials, including books previously owned by famous figures, including John Donne, Ben Johnson, and John Dee. The topics covered in this collection are science, theology, exploration, geography, and others, and the books are in many different languages including German, Hebrew, French, Italian, and Latin. There are some very unique and obscure books in the collection, which are now the only known copies in the world. In Ashley's time, the Inns of Court were supposed to not only provide a legal education, but also to provide education in theology, philosophy, and the arts and sciences. The library has been kept in different places around Middle Temple, but the first building that was purposefully built to be a library was opened in 1861, which was destroyed in the Second World War by bombing. The present library building was designed by Sir Edward Maufe and was opened in 1958 by the Queen Mother.
|The interior of the Middle Temple Library|
The library provides many services for its members including reference services, and an easily searchable online catalog and many electronic databases, including Hein Online and Westlaw. The library also provides a document delivery service. Middle Temple also has computers available for use on the premises with word processing and Internet. Seminar rooms have been built in the place of shelving for training of student barristers, ongoing professional development and law seminars; they've had to maximize their potential and re-appropriate some space within the library because of their financial situation--they have to remain relevant and provide more services other than traditional library services in order to ensure funding. Access to the library is restricted to Middle Temple members, but one can make appointments in order to use the rare books or archival collections.
The library was very beautiful and it provided so many resources to law students and practicing professionals. The librarians who showed us the library and the Great Hall for Middle Temple were very gracious and provided us with a lot of relevant information. I thought the library was beautiful and the way that the space was set up was very conducive to studying and research.