The Chained Library

The Chained Library

The Chained Library at Wells Cathedral houses books published before 1800. These were collected by the canons in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and reflects their wide-ranging intellectual interests. The core of the collection of some 2,800 volumes is theology, but science, medicine, history, exploration and languages are also well-represented. There are some good examples of manuscript books but the medieval contents of the Library were lost at the time of the Reformation.

The strength of the collection is in printed books, the earliest being a Pliny Naturalis Historiae printed in Venice in 1472 by Nicholas Jenson. Other early books include Vesalius’ De Humanis Corporis Fabrica of 1555, which is the book of anatomy that heralded the advent of biology as a subject, and the earliest complete atlas of the world by Abraham Ortelius which was first published in English in 1606. The set of Aristotle’s works published in Venice in 1497 belonged to Erasmus and has his signature and annotations.

The Chained Library can be viewed by the public from the Reading Room, and provides opportunities for enchanting photographs.

Please email to arrange a tour of the Chained Library guided by the Cathedral Librarian. We need two weeks’ notice. Booked tours are for a minimum of 8 people and maximum of 12 and cost £10 per person inc. VAT.  Please allow one and a half hours for the tour. Be aware that access is by a stone spiral staircase and may not be suitable for those with mobility problems.

Scholars are most welcome. Please contact the Cathedral Librarian, Mr Kevin Spears, identifying your research interests.

Contact details: email , call 01749 674483 or write to us at Cathedral Offices, Chain Gate, Cathedral Green, Wells, BA5 2UE.