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Canterbury Cathedral Library

Address. Cathedral House, The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2EH
Telephone. (01227) 45 89 50
Fax. (01227) 76 28 97
e-mail. [(Library); catlib@ukc.ac.uk (Library);] s.m.hingley@ukc.ac.uk (Librarian)

Governing body or responsible institution. Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral, with close links with the University of Kent
Function. Research library.
Subjects. Ecclesiastical history; medieval English history; pre-1900 theology; Kent history; Protestant-Catholic controversy; early printed books.

Access. Open to researchers by prior appointment. - Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. First and third Saturdays in the month 9.30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Closed for 2 weeks in January for stocktaking.
Special facilities. Microform readers and reader-printer; photocopying done by staff; microfilming and photography by arrangement.
Travel directions. Canterbury East and Canterbury West stations are on two different railway lines from Dover to London. Canterbury West station also has connections to Ashford International Station. The Cathedral is within easy walking distance from the stations (the city is pedestrianised). - A 2 (Dover to London), exit Canterbury. No parking near the Cathedral but there are car parks in Canterbury city.


1.1 There has probably been a collection of books within the Cathedral precinct since the arrival of St. Augustine in 597. Between 597 and 1000 the community within the Cathedral was not monastic, and some books probably came and went with individuals who used them. There are extant books and documents that date from this period, notably the Golden Gospels now in Stockholm, but Viking raids and other such disturbances led to the books being plundered or destroyed. From the early 11th century the community in the Cathedral gradually became more monastic, especially after the tenth-century reforms instituted by Archbishop Dunstan and his successors. By the beginning of the 11th century at least 33 books were present in what became known as the Cathedral Priory of Christ Church. From the late tenth century there also existed a scriptorium producing a recognisable Christ Church script. 1.1

1.2 One of the several disastrous fires of the medieval period destroyed most of the Cathedral in 1067, including the contents of the library. Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1070 to 1089 not only reformed the priory's way of life and rebuilt church and monastic buildings, but also set up a scriptorium to make good the losses of the library. Throughout the medieval period the numbers of books grew, although the scriptorium had fallen into disuse by the mid-12th century. The earliest surviving catalogue dates from around 1326 and records 1600 books. A new library building was provided for the priory by Archbishop Chichele, being completed in 1442/43 and providing room for about 2,000 vols.

1.3 The dissolution of the priory in 1540 provided a complete change of government in the Cathedral. The new foundation comprised a Dean and 12 Canons, six of whom were former monks. Between 1540 and 1600 the large collection of manuscript books virtually disappeared. Several deans and canons removed books to their private collections, thus explaining the substantial number of Canterbury books now in Oxford and Cambridge colleges, Lambeth Palace and other libraries. Under 20 manuscript books from the medieval library are now at Canterbury Cathedral.

1.4 A new library of printed books was set up by the new foundation and after the vicissitudes of the Civil War, the demolished library building was restored in 1664. This is still the heart of the library complex, with its six remaining 17th-century oak bookcases. By donation and purchase the library grew. In 1669 the Dean and Chapter purchased c. 20 MSS and c. 100 printed books which had belonged to the Canterbury historian, William Somner (1598-1669), from his widow, and in 1714 Stephen Hunt, Canterbury physician, bequeathed c. 300 books on philology, philosophy and literature, many printed on the Continent. The major donation came in 1887, when Archdeacon Benjamin Harrison (1808-1887) gave his collection of 16,000 books and pamphlets to the Cathedral. His library included most of the working library of Archbishop William Howley (1776-1848) and a number of books and pamphlets belonging to Sir Robert Harry Inglis, M.P. (1786-1855), a member of the anti-slavery movement. Another notable donation was the Coombe collection of early printed English Bibles, bequeathed by the Rev. Thomas Coombe, canon of Canterbury (d. 1822).

1.5 In the 20th century the most important additions to the collections were the deposit of the parish libraries of Preston-next-Wingham and Elham, and of the Mendham Collection, belonging to the Law Society of London. The Mendham Collection is a library of literature about the Roman Catholic Church and its critics, brought together by the Rev. Joseph Mendham (1769-1856) in the first half of the 19th century. It comprises 4,500 items, including 77 incunables and about a dozen MSS, with Continental printing of the 16th and 17th centuries well represented.


2.1 The printed collections have been divided for cataloguing purposes into the Dean and Chapter's pre-1801 books (c. 15,000 items), their 19th-century books (c. 16,000 items), their 20th-century books (c. 8,000 items, still growing), the Mendham Collection (c. 4,500 items) and the Cathedral printed music.

2.2 Of the total number of items printed before 1900, there are 2,640 printed in Germany, the most popular printing town being Leipzig (550 items), followed by Cologne (214), Basel (194), Strasbourg (102) and Frankfurt (94). Other towns represented by more than 20 printed items are: Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Dresden, Göttingen, Halle, Hamburg, Hanau, Heidelberg, Helmstedt, Jena, Mainz, Nuremberg, Offenbach, Tübingen, Vienna, Wittenberg and Zürich. Of the Dean and Chapter's 27 incunables, 11 were printed in Germany, whilst the 77 incunables in the Mendham Collection include 35 printed in Germany. There is a total of 76 items tirely in the German language. There are also a number of works with combined texts in German and other languages.

2.3 The incunables were printed at Cologne, Augsburg, Strasbourg, Speyer, Nuremberg, Tübingen,

Würzburg, Heidelberg, Ulm and Leipzig. In the Mendham Collection subjects include the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, e.g. Episcopus Moguntinus Adolphus, Copiae indulgentiarum de institutioni festi Praesentationis Mariae virginis concessarum (Strasbourg?, Printer of the ``Antichristus', about 1482?), which concerns the introduction of the feast into the province of Mainz, with bulls of Pope Paul II; also a Manuale Parochialium Sacerdotum (Strasbourg: Printer of the 1483 ``Vitas Patrum', about 1485); Privilegia et indulgentiae Fratrorum Minorum ordinis S. Francisci (Leipzig: Conrad Kachelofen 1495). All of these seem to be quite rare titles. Other German incunables in the Mendham and Cathedral collections are more common titles such as St. Anselm's works, some in rare editions such as Guillelmus Durantus, Repertorium aureum iuris canonici (Cologne: Ulrich Zell, about 1475); Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea (Cologne: Conrad Winters de Homborch 1481 and another edition Cologne: Ludwig von Renchen 1485) and Johannes Nider, Praeceptorium divinae legis (Ulm: Johann Zainer, not after 1480). An example of an early and rare liturgical work is the Breviarium Eystettense, commissioned by Wilhelm von Reichenau, bishop of Eichstätt (Würzburg: Georg Reyser, about 1484). This copy belonged to Michael Baier, canon of ``Heriedensis'(?), with an inscription dated 1581.

2.4 The interests of the Cathedral Library were universal and its collection resembles that of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges. German books of interest include mainly books in theology, but also in other subjects. There are works on biblical scholarship, e.g. Luther's Enarrationes in Epistolas D. Petri (Strasbourg 1525), Melanchthon's Scholia in Epistolam ad Colossenses (Wittenberg 1528) and his Loci communes (1522). German Bibles e.g. were published in Wittenberg in 1715 (Luther's version) and in Prague in 1781. There also is Das Neue Testament ...aus dem Griechischen ins Teutsche versetzet ([Rakow?] 1630) or an edition of German metrical psalms (n.p., c. 1600). Church history is represented by Hermann von der Hardt, Magnum oecumenicum Constantiense Concilium (Frankfurt and Leipzig 1700), and there are several collections of the Church Fathers as Bigne's Magna bibliotheca veterum patrum (15 vols, Cologne 1618-1622).

2.5 There also is a good collection of early liturgy. Apart from the Eichstätt Breviary (see above 2.3) there are a Nocturnale Romanum (Nuremberg 1491), breviaries printed in Cologne (1570 and 1695) as well as ceremonials printed in Cologne (1557 and 1572). Books of hours were printed in Speyer (c. 1494-1496) and missals printed in Strasbourg (1557) and Worms (c. 1502).

2.6 The German reformers are well represented in 16th-century editions, e.g. Martin Luther, Opera (Wittenberg 1545, 1582), De captivitate Babylonica (1520) and Epistola ad Leonem decimum (1521). There also are works by Ulrich Zwingli (Opera, Zürich 1545, 1581, De vera et falsa religione Zürich 1525), Joachim Camerarius (Vita Philippi Melanchthonis, Halle 1777 and Leipzig 1592), Martin Bucer (Scripta Anglicana, Basel 1577) and Philipp Melanchthon (Opera omnia, Wittenberg 1562-1580 and Basel 1541). The works of the reformers are complemented by a good deal of Catholic controversial theology present in the library, especially in the Mendham collection. There are contemporary copies of not only the Bulla contra errores Martini Lutheri (Rome; Antwerp: I. Mazoch and G. Vorstermann [1520]?) but also of Henry VIII's Assertio septem sacramentorum aduersus Martinum Lutherum (London: in aedibus Pynsonianis 1521).

2.7 The library also contains books on history (e.g. Johannes Trithemius, Opera historica, Frankfurt 1601, or Germanicarum rerum scriptores aliquot insignes, hactenus incogniti, Frankfurt 1600-1611). The six volumes of the Ecclesiastica historia ... secundum singulas centurias (Magdeburger Centurien, Basel 1560-1574) ed. by Matthias Flacius Illyricus are preserved in a contemporary, blind-tooled, pigskin binding and were owned by Johann Albert Gebhard (1692) and later by Georg Kloss. It also contains works on classical and linguistic scholarship, e.g. Euclid, Elementa, ed. by S. Grynaeus (Basel 1533); Ptolemaeus, Megale syntaxis, ed. by S. Grynaeus and J. Camerarius (Basel 1538); Petrus Dasypodius, Dictionarium Latino-germanicum (Frankfurt 1653); Sethus Calvisius, Opus chronologicum (Frankfurt a. M. and Emden 1650) and Germanicarum rerum scriptores (Frankfurt a. M. 1600). Biblical scholarship is represented by Isaac ben Kalonymus Nathan, Illuminans semitam, a Hebrew Bible concordance (Basel 1581); Johann Christian Wagenseil, Sota (in Hebrew and Latin; Altdorf 1674); Paraphrasis Chaldaica libri Chronicorum, ed. by M. F. Beck (Augsburg 1680); Hiob Ludolf, Historia Aethiopica (Frankfurt a. M. 1681) and Henricus Opitius, Syriasmus restitutus (Leipzig and Frank-

furt 1678). There are numerous examples of early bibliography (e.g. Conrad Gesner, Bibliotheca selecta, Cologne 1607) as well as works by Johann Albert (?) Fabricius, Georg Wolfgang Panzer and Ludwig Friedrich T. Hain. Works of natural science (e.g. Gesner's Historia animalium, Zürich 1574, Frankfurt 1585-1586?, Zürich 1610 and Frankfurt 1620) and ``humanist' poetry (Neulateinische Dichtung) are also present (e.g. Petrus Lotichius, Poemata, Leipzig 1700?).

2.8 There are items of German provenance scattered through the Dean and Chapter collection. To give examples: there are books previously belonging to the Bibliotheca Academia Georgia, Augsburg, and the Schola Reformata Fridericiana, Frankfurt, and 13 books from the library of Georg Kloss. Books in the Mendham collection were bought by the Rev. Joseph Mendham during the early 19th century when the libraries of many Continental religious houses were being dispersed. Consequently the provenance index in the published catalogue to the collection (pp. 489-500) contains a number of entries for German institutional owners. German bindings are scattered throughout the collections: in particular, there are a number of 16th-century, blind-tooled, pigskin bindings.


3.1 Current catalogues

All the Cathedral catalogues are held on computer and at some stage in the future will be accessible online by external users.

Shaw, David; Hingley, Sheila: Canterbury Cathedral Library. Catalogue of the pre-1801 printed books. Marlborough: Adam Matthew Publications 1998 [15 microfiche sheets and an introductory booklet; includes the catalogue of pre-1901 books in Rochester Cathedral Library; with provenance indexes to both collections]

The pre-1701 books in the library are included in: The Cathedral libraries catalogue. Books printed before 1701 in the libraries of the Anglican cathedrals of England and Wales. By Margaret S. G. McLeod and others. Ed. and completed by Karen I. James and David J. Shaw. 2 vols. London 1984-98 (vol. 2: books printed outside the British Isles)

The incunables are recorded in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

Mendham Collection:

Catalogue of the Law Society's Mendham Collection. Completed and ed. by Sheila Hingley and David Shaw from the catalogue of Helen Carron and others. London 1994

3.2 Historic catalogues

The medieval library catalogues are published in:

James, M. R.: The ancient libraries of Canterbury and Dover. Cambridge 1903

These will be published in a new edition as part of the Corpus of British medieval library catalogues.

Published catalogues of the post-medieval library:

Catalogus librorum Bibliothecae Ecclesiae Christi Cantuariensis. Canterbury 1743

Catalogue of the books, both manuscript and printed, which are preserved in the Library of Christ Church, Canterbury. [Canterbury] 1802


The best account of the history of the Cathedral library and archives is:

Ramsay, Nigel: The Cathedral Archives and Library. In: Patrick Collinson, Nigel Ramsay, and Margaret Sparks (eds.): A History of Canterbury Cathedral. Oxford 1995


Information on the collections is included in Nigel Ramsay's chapter on the history of the library.

Catalogue of the Law Society's Mendham Collection, pp. xv-cl [see above 3.1; comprises essays on Joseph Mendham and his collection]

Hingley, Sheila: The Elham Parish Library. In P. Isaac and B. Mc Kay (eds.): The Reach of Print. Making, selling and using books. Winchester and Delaware 1998, pp. 175-190

Slavery. A bibliography of the collection in Canterbury Cathedral Library. Compiled by Clare Gathercole. Canterbury 1988 [contains a bibliography of the anti-slavery collection in the Harrison Collection]

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, p. 106

August 1998

Sheila Hingley

With the help of David Shaw

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.