The Wren and Medieval libraries would normally open to the public between April and October each year. Essential repair work is currently being undertaken in the Wren Library. This means that both libraries will remain closed until further notice. We are also unable to offer privately booked tours and group visits at the moment. We are endeavouring to have the libraries open as soon as possible.
The Reading Rooms are open as normal to researchers although not all library material is currently accessible. Prior booking is essential.
To find out more about the nature of the works to the Wren Library, or to make a donation to the work, please click below.Find out more
At the north-east corner of the cloister you will find the Cathedral’s two historic libraries.
Crossing the threshold into these two enchanting spaces is like stepping into the past, and visitors can see medieval manuscripts and some of the Cathedral’s collection of books, as well as enjoying the stunning architecture of the two spaces.
The Wren and Medieval libraries would normally open to the public between April and October each year, however, essential repair work is currently being undertaken in the Wren Library and this means that both libraries are likely to remain closed for the whole of 2024. We’re working hard to have the libraries open as soon as possible.
The 15th century Medieval Library was originally built as a chained library and housed the Cathedral’s collection of early handwritten manuscripts.
Although mostly theological in nature to suit the needs of scholars and the Cathedral clergy at the time, there are also treasures such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the Thornton Manuscript. In 2022 we marked the 600th anniversary of the Medieval Library.
The 17th century Wren Library contains approximately half of the Cathedral’s early printed books, many of which belonged to Dean Michael Honywood who paid for the building and design of the library.
The collection includes 120 “incunabula” or, books printed before 1501. Honywood’s eclectic interests are reflected in the subjects of his books: history, geography, travel, science, nature, literature and even beauty tips for ladies are among the subjects covered. A selection of manuscripts and early printed books is on display throughout the open season.
Julie Taylor, our librarian picks out some of her favourite books, manuscripts and artefacts from the Cathedral library collection to share.
With a diverse collection including religious texts, literature, history, the natural sciences and much more, there are hundred of little seen treasures to delight and inspire!
Preserving our treasures
As custodians of the library and its collections our role is not only to preserve them for future generations but also to make them more accessible to researchers and visitors alike.
Extended exhibition opening hours and the provision of an online catalogue are helping to bring the library to the attention of a wider audience.
The library has two small reading rooms, one in Exchequergate Arch opposite the main entrance to the Cathedral and the other in the relatively modern 1914 library extension built adjoining the Wren Library.
A team of enthusiastic volunteers act as stewards, welcoming and informing visitors, while behind the scenes others help with cataloguing and indexing.
A team of Arts Society members help to record, check, clean and repair the books and a continuing programme of book conservation assures their survival for the future.
Environmental conditions in all library rooms are carefully monitored and an automatic computerised system in the Wren library helps to ensure that relative humidity levels, which if too high or too low can be damaging to the books, are kept within the correct parameters.
The Cathedral’s two Reading Rooms are open to researchers on weekdays throughout the year. Due to limited space, booking in advance is essential. Restoration work on the Wren Library means that there is currently no access to the books kept there.
To check availability and to book, please contact the Librarian on 01522 561640 or email Julie.Taylor@lincolncathedral.com
Find out more
Although the Cathedral has not always had a library, it has always had books. This guide follows the story of how, from small beginnings, the collection grew, leading to the building of a chained library in the early 15th century and then 250 years later to the building of the Wren Library, paid for by our greatest benefactor Dean Michael Honywood.
It also highlights some of the library’s many treasures. The guide has 72 pages and is fully illustrated. It costs £6.99 and is available to buy from the Cathedral Shop.
The libraries at Lincoln Cathedral and the collection of books and manuscripts they house, are truly special. The Wren Library is just one of two designed by the great Sir Christopher Wren – the other being at Trinity College, Cambridge.
You can support the ongoing work of conserving the collection by either making a donation, or by adopting a book or manuscript page for yourself, or as the perfect gift for the person that ‘has everything’.
The ideal gift for book lovers, the Lincoln Cathedral book adoption scheme allows you to adopt a book in the collection, while supporting the upkeep of our libraries and books.
Manuscript Page Adoptions
Adopt one of the cathedral’s stunning medieval manuscript pages. You will receive a full information pack and will be helping to support the cathedral for future generations.