Library

The Cathedral Library was built in the mid-fifteenth century over the East Cloister.

It houses the book collection of the Chapter in two areas: the Chained Library and the Reading Room.

Featured Library Book of the Month – June

BRYANT, Jacob     A New System, or, an Analysis of Ancient Mythology (3 vols)          (1774)

 Jacob Bryant(1715-1804) was an antiquarian educated at Eton and Cambridge. He returned to Eton to be the private tutor to the future Duke of Marlborough who subsequently found him a lucrative position in the Ordnance Department which left him free time for his literary interests.

The book on Mythology is his best known work and it attempts to reconcile pagan mythology with the biblical account of history. He theorized that the original monotheism of the Old Testament had degenerated after the Flood into various forms of sun worship, from which all the other pagan gods and heroes descended. His lack of any knowledge of ancient languages made it easy for critics to question his research.

His work had a lasting influence on William Blake, who as late as 1809 cites the authority of “Jacob Bryant, and all antiquaries” in support of his claim that “The antiquities of every Nation under Heaven” are equally sacred. Blake, as both artist and poet, is believed to have had a hand in engraving Bryant’s book and was familiar with the references to Egyptian, Grecian, and Druidic mythologies outlined in this compendious three-volume work.

OLN 202

Proud to Celebrate Staff Talent

How many Cathedrals can boast two staff authors with new book releases? Both Cathedral Librarian, Kevin Spears, and Archivist Anne Crawford, have recently produced volumes, now on sale in the Cathedral shop.

An Illustrated History of the Books in the Chained Library of Wells Cathedral’, is available for £19.99.

Kevin Spears' book coverIn an accessible format, with many beautiful visual examples, it gives background notes on the history of the book, ranging from production of manuscripts and early printing, to literacy, copyright and censorship, bookbinding and more. The Chained Library of Wells Cathedral has manuscript and printed books produced between the years 1000-1800. Together with the modern Reading Room, it is a working library still occupying the same space created for it above the East Cloister in the mid-1400s.

 ‘The Vicars of Wells: A History of the College of Vicars Choral’ (2016), is available for £15.

The vicars choral of Wells have been singing in the Cathedral for more than nine centuries, generation after generation of dedicated musicians.  In 1348 Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury founded the College of Vicars Choral at Wells by charter.  They were the first group of vicars to be thus formally incorporated in the country.  The college as an institution lasted until 1931.  The college hall and the individual houses for each vicar, forming Vicars’ Close built by Bishop Ralph, have survived remarkably unchanged.

Both volumes come highly recommended.