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.


Chained Library Featured Book of the Month – February

SPENCE, John Polymetis: or an enquiry concerning the agreement between the works of the Roman poets and the remains of the antient artists (1747)

John Spence (1699-1768) was the son of a Precentor of Winchester Cathedral and took holy orders himself in 1726 after graduating from Oxford. His main interest was poetry and Alexander Pope became his mentor. This led to him becoming Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1728.

From 1737 to 1741 he travelled widely in Europe with aristocratic companions and developed a thorough grasp of the Classics and of the published literature on classical antiquity. Polymetis is the result of this research with its focus on the relationship between the art and the literature of classical Greece and Rome correlating literary references to Roman deities with visual representations of the same gods on gems and coins. There are ample accompanying indices and the volume’s forty-one plates, engraved by L.P. Boitard, illustrate sculptures, gems and coins referred to in the text.

Spence became Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in 1742 and was made a prebendary of Durham cathedral in 1754.

OLN 396


Proud to Celebrate Staff Talent

How many Cathedrals can boast two staff authors with new book releases? Both Cathedral Librarian, Kevin Spears, and Archivist Veronica Howe, 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.