At the north-east corner of the cloister you will find the Cathedral’s two historic libraries. Click here to download and view the latest Library Newsletter.
The 15th Century Medieval Library
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.
The 17th Century Wren 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.
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.
“Lincoln Cathedral Library: the story so far”
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 in the Medieval Library during normal opening hours or from the Cathedral Shop.
In 2019 the library will be open from Monday 1st April until Thursday 31st October
In addition, the libraries will be open on Saturday 30th March between 11am and 3pm as part of the Discover Lincolnshire Weekend
April – June: Monday to Friday 1pm – 3pm, Saturdays and Bank Holidays 11am – 3pm
July – August: Monday to Saturday 11am – 3pm
September – October: Monday to Friday 1pm – 3pm, Saturdays 11am – 3pm
Entrance to the libraries is included in the Cathedral ticket price.
Library Closures: the library will be closed on Wednesday 1st May 2019 and between Monday 17th June and Friday 21st June.
If you would like to visit outside normal opening hours or at other times of year, click here for more information.
New for 2018-2019: Out of season tours
This is a unique opportunity to visit one of the treasures of the Cathedral during the winter months.
From November 1st 2018 until March 28th 2019 you can now book tours of the library on Wednesdays and Thursdays. You can either book ahead by contacting the Visitor Services team on 01522 561600 or you can book at the Entry Desk when you visit the Cathedral. Tours cost £4 per head and last approximately 1 hour. Tours start at 11am and 2pm. Please note that the library is on the first floor and is only accessible up a flight of stairs.
There will be no tours on Thursday 7th February
What do our visitors say about us?
Matthew from Cambridge: “One of the most beautiful collections and rooms I have seen”
David from Leeds: “A fabulous library and a wonderful half-hour well spent. Thank you”
Kevin from Cardiff: “How unexpected a joy to find this additional treasure within the Cathedral precincts – and a great welcome”
Ania from Portugal: “Amazing library!”
Eva from Prague: “Wonderful library and great guides. Thank you”
The Cathedral’s two reading rooms are open to researchers on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the year. Due to limited space, booking in advance is essential. To book, please contact the Librarian on 01522 561640 or email email@example.com