Wren Library

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View of the Wren Library across Nevile's Court
View of the rear facade from the river Cam
The Wren Library (foreground) and University Library (background) viewed from St John's College chapel tower
The interior of the library, showing the limewood carvings by Grinling Gibbons

The Wren Library is the library of Trinity College in Cambridge. It was designed by Christopher Wren in 1676 and completed in 1695.


The library is a single large room built over an open colonnade on the ground floor of Nevile's Court. The floor of the library proper within the upper storey lies several feet below the external division between the two storeys, reconciling the demands of use with the harmony of architectural proportion. It is credited as being one of the first libraries to be built with large windows to give comfortable light levels to aid readers.

The book stacks are arranged in rows perpendicular to the walls under the intervals between the windows. At the end of each stack is a fine limewood carving by Grinling Gibbons, and above these are plaster cast busts of notable writers through the ages. Other marble busts standing on plinths depict notable members of the college and are mostly carved by Louis-François Roubiliac. A later addition is a full size statue of Lord Byron carved by Bertel Thorvaldsen, originally offered to Westminster Abbey for inclusion in Poets' Corner, but refused due to the poet's reputation for immorality.[1]

On the east balustrade of the library's roof are four statues by Gabriel Cibber representing Divinity, Law, Physic (medicine), and Mathematics.[2]

Cloisters beneath main library room. Note ceiling level at springing point of exterior arches rather than at their peak.

As part of the complex of buildings surrounding Nevile's Court, Great Court and New Court, the library is a Grade I listed building.[3]

The other library designed by Wren is Lincoln Cathedral Library.

Notable books[edit]

The library contains many notable rare books and manuscripts, many bequeathed by past members of the college.

Included in the collection are

Digitisation programme[edit]

In early 2014 the library began a major programme of digitisation. To date, over 160 of the 1250 medieval manuscripts owned by the College have been digitised and are freely available to read online.[12] A link to the list of digitised manuscripts can be found in the external links below.


The library is open to the public,[13][14] but opening times are limited.[15] There is no admission charge for the Wren Library.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°12′25.56″N 0°6′53.64″E / 52.2071000°N 0.1149000°E / 52.2071000; 0.1149000