AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Iris Murdoch's Oxford Library

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2108 IML
Held at: Kingston University
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Iris Murdoch's Oxford Library
Date(s): 1538-[1990]
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 1122 volumes plus music sheets and objects
Name of creator(s): Murdoch | Dame | Jean Iris | 1919-1999 | author
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin, Ireland on 15 Jul 1919. When she was very young Iris and her parents moved to London, England, and Iris studied at Frobel and Badminton Schools. She followed this with studies in classics, ancient history and philosophy at Oxford, and further study at Cambridge. During the war years Iris worked for the Treasury in London, and then joined the UNRRA providing relief in formerly occupied countries in Europe. In 1948 she became a fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford, where she taught and researched philosophy.

Iris Murdoch wrote a number of tracts on philosophy, however it is for her novels that she is best known. She wrote 26 novels in total, her first being Under the Net published in 1954. Other notable works include The Bell and The Sea, the Sea,/i>, for which she won the Booker Prize. Her last novel, Jackson's Dilemma, was published in 1995.
In her youth Iris Murdoch had relationships with a number of individuals, including Elias Canetti. She met author and scholar John Bayley while at Oxford, and they married in 1956. She wrote to a great number of people and maintained friendships in this way.
Later in life Iris Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, the first effects of which she had attributed to writer's block. She died in 1999.


Scope and content/abstract:

Iris Murdoch's library as held at her house in Oxford, and removed after her death. The books were collected by Iris Murdoch throughout her lifetime. The books predominately relate to her interests in philosophy, theology and psychology, with some on other subjects. Approximately half of the books were annotated by Iris Murdoch, some of them to great length and detail.
With the books a collection of music scores and sheets was acquired, with some song books dating back to the late 1800s. Many of these were inherited by Iris Murdoch from her mother, Irene. There is also a collection of beer coasters collected by the author, and some terracotta oil lamps.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The books have been ordered to represent the way they were held within Iris Murdoch's study.

Conditions governing access:

Able to be viewed by appointment in the Kingston University Archives and Specia Collections search room.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Many of the texts are too fragile to allow any copying. No reproduction of the annotations is allowed.

Finding aids:

Individual catalogue records can be found on the University's library catalogue at

Archival Information

Archival history:

These books were compiled by Iris Murdoch throughout her lifetime. Some of them were gifts or belonged to friends and others she knew.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Purchased with help of a grant from the MLA/ V and A Purchase Grant Fund.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"