A collection of rare books owned by "the best read man in England" has been given by his family to Oxford's Bodleian Library.

The outstanding collection built up over a lifetime by the late Sir Basil Blackwell was presented to the Bodleian by Julian Blackwell, pictured, president of the Oxford booksellers.

The donation was announced on Wednesday at a party to mark the retirement of Reg Carr as the 23rd Bodley's Librarian and Director of University Library Services.

The books will form an important part of the new Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book.

A Blackwell Room, with furniture, books and memorabilia, will be created within the centre for researchers, which will also serve as a forum for creative writing and poetry readings as well as other events open to the public.

The collection was started by Sir Basil in the 1920s. It includes valuable and important printed books from the 15th to the 20th century covering a wide range of subjects, especially European and English literature.

The library also has editions published, edited or supported by the Blackwell family, who were major patrons of scholarly printing of classical works of literature and history from the 1920s onwards.

Mr Carr said: "For well over a century the Bodleian has lived and worked closely with its nearest Broad Street neighbour, Blackwell's.

"As education expanded, boosted by the development of state provision, so too the university's libraries flourished. And in turn the librarians came to rely on the booksellers. Among these Blackwell's stands out."

Julian Blackwell said he hoped the gift would encourage a new generation "to explore the mind's mountains".

Sir Basil, who died in 1984, was described in The Times as "arguably the best read man in England."