Neil Blair – Founder of The Blair Partnership – was this week honoured to open the Neil Blair Special Collections Reading Room at Oxford University. The Neil Blair Special Collections Reading Room is located at Exeter College, where Neil spent his years studying Jurisprudence at Oxford.
Neil chose to support the construction of the archive space and reading room on Exeter College’s Cohen Quadrangle after finding out that a collection of 30,000 rare books – including important works of Judaica such as a copy of the Soncino Bible, the earliest full text bible ever printed – had lain beneath his feet in the basement of the College Library whilst he was a student. After learning about Exeter’s attempts to bring the books out of the basement, Neil and his wife, Debra, donated to the campaign in order to preserve the books and give them a permanent home that was accessible to all. The space also provides state-of-the-art storage facilities that will ensure the conservation of the texts for generations to come.
Neil said, ‘As an undergraduate I felt privileged and extremely proud to have been the first of my family to get into university – let alone to be accepted into Oxford. The time I spent there as a student was a joy and I am delighted to be able to give something back to the university that has given me so much. This is particularly significant to me as it relates to two things that are very close to my heart – books and being Jewish. I am so pleased to see how the project has helped to salvage and preserve these important books, as well as helping the librarians, fellows, and scholars themselves in their work and research’.
Neil cut the ribbon to the facility surrounded by his family, friends, librarians, lecturers and fellows from the university, before a show and tell of the archive items from the Reading Room.