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Canterbury Cathedral to re-open historic Library

PUBLISHED: 13:10 14 March 2011 | UPDATED: 18:59 20 February 2013

Canterbury Cathedral to re-open historic Library

Canterbury Cathedral to re-open historic Library

On Thursday 31st March Canterbury Cathedral will reopen its Library doors to the public after eighteen months of refurbishment...

Cathedral to re-open the doors to historic Library


On Thursday 31st March Canterbury Cathedral will reopen its Library doors to the public after eighteen months of refurbishment. The renovation work included the installation of a climate controlled environment to protect the collection of well over 50,000 books and pamphlets. The recent restoration work has provided a new copper roof, hi-tech insulation, new heating system and secondary glazing, which now provide better environmental conditions so that future generations may once again enjoy these precious collections. The buildings include the Howley- Harrison Library, a room rebuilt over the Infirmary Cloister in 1665. Thanks to generous grants from the Wolfson Foundation, English Heritage and the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, it has been restored to its splendid 19th century dcor but with a 21st century twist. The work took over two years to plan and complete, and came in below budget at just over 1 million. As part of the process, the various Collections had to be moved and re-housed while the building work took place.


Celebrations will be held all that day to mark the grand reopening and will include an Exhibition showcasing the Cathedral"Ÿs historic collections in the Library. A special one off event entitled Dr David Starkeys Choice has been organised for that evening; the famous historian will share some of his favourites from the Library collections. Speaking about his involvement with the event Dr Starkey said; 'Canterbury Cathedral Library is one of the great foundation libraries of the Church of Englandthat is to say, of England itself'.

The launch day celebrations will be followed by a short series of free monthly lectures that will be held in the Cathedral Archives.

Having been closed to the public since May 2009, the Cathedral community are thrilled at the thought of the reopening of the Library. Speaking about his passion for the Cathedral"Ÿs collections, Canon Christopher Irvine said; Books are like old friends, and they remind me that there"Ÿs always more to discover about the world than we know, or even imagine. I"Ÿm always amazed at the breadth of interest and curiosity about the world which is reflected in the collections of the Cathedral Library. These books open old, forgotten worlds, and invite us to marvel not only at the past, but on how resilient the community has been, and continues to be, in looking for wisdom for the future.


Having overseen the painstakingly long procedure of carefully packing and unpacking all of the books and pamphlets, the Cathedral Librarian, Karen Brayshaw said; I am excited about the reopening of the Cathedral Library because once again such a rich resource of interesting and significant books will be accessible to our many readers. It is estimated that over 3,000 scholars, researchers and visitors by appointment use the Library each year.

There has been a library at the Cathedral for over a thousand years. The original medieval library was mostly dispersed in the 16th century. The current collections have grown steadily since 1540. It is particularly rich in early printed material and holds an impressive selection of titles on church history, older theology, national and local history, travel, natural science, medicine and the anti-slavery movement. Significant titles that are held in the collection include an early edition of the King James Bible (The authorised version, first published 400 years ago), Benjamin Harrison"Ÿs copy of Shakespeare (1632, second folio edition) and several versions of local author William Somner's Antiques of Canterbury including the treasured editorial copy that belonged to Somner himself and which contains many of his own manuscript additions and corrections.

The launch Exhibition will be held in the Cathedral Library on Thursday 31st March 2011 from 10.00 17.00 hrs. Admission to the exhibition is free but normal precinct charges apply.


The library will host a series of monthly lectures to celebrate its reopening:
14th April The Howley-Harrison Library: the history of the building and its conservation Dr. Margaret Sparks and John Burton, Surveyor to the Fabric.
12th May Development of the Cathedral Library Collections in the 17th Century Dr. David Shaw.
16th June Canterbury Cathedral Library and the Civil War Professor Jackie Eales, Canterbury Christ Church University.
17th 18th October The Bible in English an exhibition to celebrate 400 years of the King James Version of the Bible. Open to the public, Mon Fri 10.00-16.00 Hrs. Normal precinct charges apply.
11th November The annual Archives and library Lecture given by Professor Kenneth Fincham University of Kent The making of the King James Version of the Bible (time TBC)
12th November A one-day conference The Bible in English from the early Middle Ages to 1661 Held in conjunction with the University of Kent. Venue: The Kentish Barn, the Cathedral Lodge.

Further information about the Library can be found at http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/history/libraries.aspx
Tel: +44 (0)1227 865330

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