Library

Library


Wells Cathedral’s Chained Library was built over the East Cloister following instructions in the will of Bishop Bubwith who died in 1424. It was the largest medieval library in England when it opened in the 1450s. It is one of only four such chained libraries in the country. The Reading Room was created in 2002 in order to allow much wider access to the post 1800 books and journals.

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.

Chained Library Tours

To find out more about tours of the Chained Library click here. To book tickets directly, click on the link below.

Book Tickets

 

Chained Library Catalogue

Wells Cathedral – Chained Library Catalogue [PDF download]

 

The Reading Room

The Reading Room was created in 2002 in order to allow much wider access to the post 1800 books and journals. The collection complements and extends that of the Chained Library, with modern translations and commentaries on theological and spiritual works as well as books on history, biography, archaeology and all aspects of Cathedral life. It acts as a resource centre for the cathedral’s Guides, Friends, volunteers and anyone interested in the cathedral’s development over the years.

Opening times

The Reading Room is open Mondays to Fridays 14.00-16.00. It is also occasionally open on Saturdays. Please be aware that access is by a stone spiral staircase and may not be suitable for those with mobility problems.

Visitors are welcome throughout opening times, however readers requiring a quiet study environment will be given priority. The Chained Library can be viewed by the public from the Reading Room, and provides opportunities for enchanting photographs.

 

 

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