Massive oak reading desks (part of a fifteenth-century chained library) and a stunning book-lined gallery created by Sir Christopher Wren – this is the fascinating world that awaits the visitor at the top of the Library stairs.
Here you might find on display a tenth-century manuscript – older than the Cathedral itself – or a rhyme about Robin Hood, the fifteenth-century scribbling of a bored schoolboy. The regularly changing exhibition, open to all Cathedral visitors, may include an atlas of hand-coloured maps, a book printed by William Caxton, or a first edition of the Spanish classic, Don Quixote.
The Medieval Library
A collection of books lay at the heart of the Cathedral’s educational work from the beginning. The tenth-century copy of Bede’s Homilies is older than the cathedral itself. The Medieval Library was built in 1422 to give the collection a secure home. It consisted of a timber-framed building, covered by a magnificent oak roof decorated with carved bosses and feathered angels.
The room was furnished with oak reading-desks, to which the books were securely chained to prevent loss. These volumes, painstakingly copied by medieval scribes and often beautifully illuminated, formed the working library of the cathedral chapter.
The Wren Library
Michael Honywood, Dean of Lincoln from 1660 to 1681, rebuilt the ruined north cloister as a library. A passionate book collector, he bequeathed his personal library of some 5000 volumes to the Cathedral. He chose as architect Sir Christopher Wren, Britain’s most renowned architect. The result is, in the words of Sir Roy Strong, “the most beautiful room in England.”
Dean Honywood’s library reflects his own interests, ranging from contemporary pamphlets to a manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; from the poetry of John Donne to the study of sun dials; from atlases to books written by early colonists in America; from mathematical and scientific works to classics of European literature; from theology to music.
The Library Today
In the twenty-first century, education plays a central part in the Cathedral’s mission. The role of the Library is to support this work in all its varied aspects. Through its doors come children taking part in workshops, college students researching projects, postgraduates working on their dissertations, academics from around the world hunting up rare books and manuscripts – indeed, just about anyone who is engaged in the pursuit of life-long learning.
How you can help
We want to preserve our ancient collection but also make it widely available and add to it when opportunities arise. You can help by Adopting a Book
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