Lincoln Cathedral Library

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Wren Library building

The Lincoln Cathedral Library is a library of Lincoln Cathedral, Lincolnshire, England.


As well as a reference collection of c.10,000 items, there are 260 mediaeval manuscripts, including works of theology, canon law, devotional books, music and literature, and the following:[1]

The devotional books include an illuminated Book of Hours which is small enough to fit into a pocket.


Pre civil war[edit]

In the mediaeval era the manuscripts were kept in a chest or cupboard, and scholars came from great distances to consult them.[citation needed]

By 1422 a new, chained library had been built over the east walk of the Cloister, adjoining the Chapter House. Three of the mediaeval reading desks and one bench survive in the Mediaeval Library, which was built to accommodate around a hundred manuscripts.

Wren Library[edit]

Honywood's memorial in the cathedral nave

Michael Honywood was made Dean of Lincoln at the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, with the huge task of repairing the fabric of the cathedral, ravaged by the Parliamentarian soldiers during the Civil War. General repairs took him until 1674, when he was finally able to begin his cherished project of providing a new library building with £780 of his own money on the site of the ruined north cloister.

Honywood commissioned the design from Sir Christopher Wren, who also supervised throughout, as is indicated by a page which survives in the Cathedral collections, setting out the prices for painting and gilding, and written and signed by Wren. The external Tuscan Doric colonnade of the exterior is serenely classical yet the inside is full of Baroque features: advancing and receding planes and cornice, which give interest to a long, narrow room; and the trompe l'oeil marbling. Through removal of the added paint layers some of the original marbling has been revealed; where it has not been revealed (due to expense and conservation concerns) a reproduction marbling has been painted over the layers.

The terms laid out in the contracts for the building specified that the building should be completed in two years.

He bequeathed his 5,000 books (including one of only 250 manuscript versions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) to the Dean and Chapter - these are still in the building built for them.

Lincoln is one of only two surviving Wren libraries; the other is the Wren Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, designed by Wren in 1676.


  • Beneath its entrance steps is a Roman mosaic.



Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library Rodney M. Thomson; Boydell & Brewer (1989)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°14′05″N 0°32′09″W / 53.2348°N 0.5358°W / 53.2348; -0.5358