The Library, tucked away at the top of a spiral staircase, is one of the Cathedral's best-loved treasures. It is situated on the upper storey of our two-storey Chapter House, and is a home to a globally important collection of books and manuscripts.
Both the Library, and the space below, is at the centre of our current Chapter House Appeal. If you would like to consider donating to the Chapter House Appeal, please click here to find out more.
The Library has been housed in the upper room of the Chapter House since 1758. It houses a magnificent collection of treasures including fifteenth-century hand-copied manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, one of three surviving original copies of Christopher Saxton's maps of Tudor England, and a fascinating manuscript of illustrations issued by and signed by Charles I.
The library was built in 1249 and would have probably been the Treasury - spacious enough to house the Cathedral's plate and collection of manuscripts. Gradually augmented, this early library most likely contained both historical and theological works for use by the canons. In the late 15th century, Deans Heywode and Yotton gave money to build a new detached library on the north side of the Cathedral. This library was stripped of all its books and fittings during the Civil War.
Refitted by Dean Smallwood for the reception of the Duchess of Somerset's bequest in 1673, it was then demolished in 1758. The Cathedral Library has occupied the space on the upper level of the Chapter House since this date.
The current collection has been built up through generous gifts and loans. The Duchess of Somerset's bequest of 1,000 volumes from her late husband's library included manuscripts and early printed books. This bequest included the fine 15th century manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Orders of Charles I for the regulation of the Prince's Household, and the 8th century St Chad Gospels* which the Duchess looked after during the civil war.
*The St Chad Gospels are currently on display in the Chapter House, alongside the Lichfield Angel.
Tours & Access
The library is used by scholars and researchers. We welcome private visits to the library, however access is by appointment only.
The Cathedral's music is catalogued on the Repetoire International des Sources Musicales website.
For further information or to discuss a private visit to the library, please contact our LIbrary Manager at email@example.com