Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Bandinel, Bulkeleyfree

  • Mary Clapinson

Bulkeley Bandinel (1781–1861)

by unknown photographer

Bandinel, Bulkeley (1781–1861), librarian, was born in Oxford on 21 February 1781, the third child of James Bandinel (d. 1804), fellow of Jesus College, and his wife, Margaret. His ancestors, originally from Italy, had moved to Jersey early in the seventeenth century. His father was the first of the family to settle in England. Educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, Bandinel proceeded from BA in 1805 to MA in 1807 and to BD and DD in 1823. He was ordained in 1805 and served as chaplain in the Royal Navy in 1808. He held the rectory of Haughton-le-Skerne, co. Durham, and the curacy of Wytham, Berkshire, until 1855. In 1815 he married Mary (d. 1875), daughter of John Phillips, of Culham, Berkshire; they had no children.

John Price, Bodley's librarian and Bandinel's godfather, appointed him under-librarian in 1810, and on Price's death three years later Bandinel was elected unopposed to his place. Within four months the Bodleian statutes were altered to increase its staff, its annual grant, its opening hours, and its librarian's salary. Bandinel's long period in office was marked by the continuous expansion of the library's collections. A decision in the court of king's bench in 1814 confirming the copyright libraries' claim to all British publications left the increased grant available for the purchase of foreign and rare books and manuscripts. Bandinel prided himself on the speed with which he responded to items coming on the market, and through judicious purchases he significantly strengthened the holdings of incunables and early bibles. Extensive purchases of English material filled gaps in the library's holdings, for example seventeenth- and eighteenth-century plays and pre-1814 booksellers' catalogues in 1834 and, in 1837, over 19,000 pamphlets of the period 1660 to 1820. Bandinel made spectacular purchases of manuscripts both western and oriental, among them the collections of Canonici in 1817 and Oppenheimer in 1829 and selections from those of Saibante in 1820 and Ouseley in 1844.

Bandinel's energies were not confined to acquisition. As under-librarian he prepared the catalogue of the large Gough collection, which was published in 1814. As Bodley's librarian he set about the daunting task of producing a general catalogue of printed books to replace the existing one which, published in 1738 and containing many inaccuracies, was a woefully inadequate guide to the collections. Attempts made through Lord Grenville, chancellor of the university, to acquire a grant from the civil list to assist in this 'national object' came to nothing, and the work proceeded slowly. In 1837 Bandinel, eloquently pointing out that some 160,000 items had been added to the collections since 1813, asked for more staff. Three additional assistants were appointed and the catalogue was published in three volumes in 1843. A fourth volume, covering the accessions of 1835–47, appeared in 1851.

In the evidence presented to the 1850 royal commission of inquiry into the state of the university, there was much cause for congratulation for the librarian who had ruled the Bodleian for thirty-seven years. Bandinel could take pride in the richness of the collections, the courtesy of the staff, and the existence of published catalogues. His health was, however, failing and he took little part in the general overhaul which, in the Bodleian as elsewhere in the university, followed the publication of the commission's findings. His attendance at the library declined, but he clung to office, resisting change, while his governing body of curators turned increasingly to his subordinates. He was eventually persuaded to retire in September 1860. He died of angina after a severe attack of bronchitis at his Oxford home, 31 Beaumont Street, on 6 February 1861 and was buried six days later.

Outside the Bodleian, Bandinel's scholarly interests lay in editing. He served for many years as delegate of the university press. With John Caley and Henry Ellis he produced a lavish new edition of Dugdale's Monasticon (1817–30). Although hailed as an outstanding achievement in its day, its reputation has not survived the rigours of modern scrutiny. David Douglas, in his English Scholars, 1660–1730 (rev. edn 1951, 38–40), dismisses it as 'almost entirely derivative'.

Contemporary accounts of Bandinel's character vary. His obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine described his endearing combination of universal courtesy and kindness. His gracious reception of Francis Douce when he visited the library in 1830 caused that great collector to alter his will in favour of the Bodleian. Yet he was clearly autocratic and did not suffer fools gladly. W. D. Macray, in his Annals of the Bodleian, admitted that Bandinel sometimes lacked 'the general courtesy which should be exhibited to all duly qualified readers alike' (Macray, 371 n). This verdict was endorsed by Professor Friedrich Max Müller, who in his Autobiography (Müller, 251), deplored Bandinel's rough treatment of his subordinates. Perhaps he had, as Sir Edmund Craster speculated in his History of the Bodleian, learned vigour of expression in the navy (Craster, 30). Macray, who served under him for twenty years, ended his account of Bandinel with the words 'all the staff trembled at Jupiter's nod'.


  • H. H. E. Craster, History of the Bodleian Library, 1845–1945 (1952)
  • W. D. Macray, Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 2nd edn (1890)
  • F. M. Müller, My autobiography: a fragment (1901)
  • E. Edwards, Memoirs of libraries (1858)
  • GM, 3rd ser., 10 (1861), 465–6
  • minutes of curators' meetings, 1793–1862, Bodl. Oxf., Library records d.12
  • extracts from the diary of H. O. Coxe, Bodl. Oxf., MS library records d.1745
  • parish register (baptisms), Oxford, St Peter-in-the-East, 20 March 1781
  • Oxford Chronicle and Berks and Bucks Gazette (9 Feb 1861), 5
  • parish register transcript (burials), Oxford, St Mary Magdalen, 12 Feb 1861


  • Bodl. Oxf., antiquarian collections, bibliographical notebooks, corresp., and other papers
  • Bodl. Oxf., library records
  • BL, corresp. with Sir Frederic Madden, Egerton MSS 2837–2846, passim
  • BL, letters to Philip Bliss, Add. MSS 34568–34581, passim
  • Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Sir Thomas Phillipps
  • E. Sussex RO, corresp. relating to H. E. H. Gage's debts while at Christ Church
  • U. Edin. L., corresp. with James Halliwell-Phillipps


  • T. Kirkby, oils, 1825, Bodl. Oxf.
  • daguerreotype, 1860, Bodl. Oxf.
  • miniatures (with his wife), Bodl. Oxf.; repro. in Craster, History of the Bodleian, facing p. 30
  • photograph, NPG [see illus.]

Wealth at Death

£16,000: probate, 2 March 1861, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Bodleian Library, Oxford
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]
Gentleman's Magazine