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The founder of the world famous Bodleian Library was born in Exeter, on 2nd March 1545. The spot, on the corner of the High Street and Gandy Street is marked with a plaque. His father was an Exeter merchant and his mother the daughter of a merchant from Ottery St Mary. He was taken by his father, during the reign of Queen Mary to Geneva to evade persecution as a protestant. Upon returning to England he went to study at Oxford. He became a gentleman-usher to Queen Elizabeth in 1576.
Bodley entered Parliament in 1584 representing Portsmouth and then St Germans from 1586. In 1588, Queen Elizabeth sent him to The Hague to represent England, and he was involved in various diplomatic and secret missions for his country. The intrigues of some of Elizabeth's ministers made life difficult for him and he returned home in 1596 to retirement.
In 1598 he offered to restore the existing library at Oxford and through the next years he used much of his own fortune with help from friends to establish it as one of the earliest public libraries in Europe. Bodley was knighted on 18th April 1604. The Bodlein Library was endowed by Bodley in 1611. Sir Thomas Bodley died in 1613 and was buried in Merton College Chapel - a monument of black and white marble was erected in his memory.
Sir Thomas Bodley.
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