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 – August

ROBERTSON, William      History of America (3 vols)      (1778-1796)

William Robertson (1721-1793) had a distinguished and varied career. He fought against the Jacobite rebels in Edinburgh in 1745; became joint minister of Greyfriars church in Edinburgh, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Royal Chaplain to George III; and then principal of Edinburgh University from 1762.

He is best remembered as a historian. His History of Scotland 1542-1603 was published in 1759, to be followed by his History of Charles V (also in the library) in 1769. During his work on Charles V he realised that the story of the conquests of the Americas by the conquistadores would need a separate book. This led to him writing the History of America, published in 1778 in two volumes, which gives an account of the colonisation by the Spanish and also describes the native customs and government systems that they displaced.

The third volume covers the history of British America, but only of Virginia to 1688 and of New England to 1652. Robertson had left off researching this area owing to the War of Independence (1775-1783), but his son eventually published his earlier research in 1796.

OLN 248

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.