The windows at Oxford University's historic Radcliffe Camera are being restored for the first time since the famous building was opened in 1749.

The restoration project involves replacing the existing windows with temporary ones, while the original windows are refurbished before being reinstalled.

Although records found in the library’s archive show that the eight windows of the Radcliffe Camera dome have been repaired before, it is the first time major work has been carried out.

Andrew Macduff, 45, support services manager for the university libraries, said: "The Radcliffe Camera is one of the iconic buildings of both the university and the city of Oxford.

"The Radcliffe Camera is Grade I listed and is one of the buildings people associate most with Oxford — this is a very important conservation project. The window renovation is part of the Bodleian’s and university’s endeavour to preserve the historic buildings they have inherited for future generations.

"The reading rooms in the Camera are the most popular in the whole university — they are always packed — so we can only do this work in the long vacation."

The windows were originally meant to be plain wood, but the then Radcliffe Camera librarian Dr Benjamin Kennicott, insisted they should be painted for better protection against the weather.

The restoration project will go on until 2010, with work carried out each summer holiday. The temporary windows are exact replicas of the originals.

The Radcliffe Library was the brainchild of Dr John Radcliffe (1650–1714). He left his trustees a large sum of money to buy both the land for the new building and an endowment to pay a librarian and buy books.

Designed by James Gibbs, the dome building of the Radcliffe Camera was built between 1737 and 1748.

Finally opened in 1749, the library initially housed the Science Library, before becoming part of the Bodleian in 1860.

In August, following a separate four-year project, painted ceiling panels at the university's Sheldonian Theatre were put back in place. The 32 panels were taken down in 2004 to allow essential repairs to the ceiling cornice.