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Library of the Dean and Chapter of Durham

Address. The Dean and Chapter Library, The College, Durham DH1 3EH
Telephone. (0191) 386-2489

Governing body or responsible institution. The Dean and Chapter of Durham
Functions. Theological and research library.
Subjects. Monastic, later theological library; also a repository for the manuscript and printed collections of many notable local historians of the north of England.

Access. Admission by written application in advance giving reasons and credentials. - Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m - 1 p.m., 2.15 - 5 p.m. Library closed for the whole of August.
Special facilities. Photocopying and photography can be arranged, and microfilm supplied, subject to copyright, physical suitability of material and service/reproduction fees. Microfilm reader and ultra-violet lamp available. Large stock of negatives and transparencies.
Travel directions. By rail or bus to Durham. The Cathedral can be reached by bus or taxi from the railway and bus stations. The library is on the south side of the cloisters. - No parking.


1.1 The library descends in direct historic continuity from the library of the Benedictine house at Durham which was dissolved in 1540. It was then changed into a capitular foundation of a Dean and 12 residentiaries. Some 330 medieval MSS codices and 28 incunabula survive from the pre-Reformation library and the library has been added to since by purchase and bequest, mostly in the 17th century (see below 2.3, 2.4). Further Durham Priory books can be found in other national collections. The present library is housed in two of the conventual buildings along the south and west cloisters - the Refectory and the Dormitory with the library office and the catalogues being housed in the Loft, originally the secondary refectory of the monastery.


2.1 The Refectory holds over 20,000 published items mainly dating from 1501 to 1800. This number includes several thousand dissertations from European universities (see below 2.4). The books are roughly arranged by classification and provide a guide to the strengths of the collections, which may be said to be Bibles and commentaries, patristics, law, history, polemics, classics, travel, atlases, Hebrew studies and dictionaries. The printed books include 70 incunabula, c. 500 foreign 16th-century items, 270 STC, c. 2,000 Wing and c. 3,500 ESTC items. There are c. 7,400 German works printed before 1800 (including dissertations), 270 Swiss and 18 Austrian. The Germanic imprints are virtually all in Latin. The Dormitory houses the modern part of the library, being principally bibliography, local history, church history and architecture.

2.2 Incunabula. 22 of the incunabula were printed in Germany and 3 in Switzerland, the latter all being from Basel. One of the most interesting aspects of this material is its connection with the pre-Reformation monastery, many of the books having inscriptions and annotations by the monks. The earliest work is St. Augustine's De civitate Dei (Mainz 1473). Strasbourg, Nuremberg and Cologne imprints are also represented. The oldest Bible in the collection is a Biblia Germanica (Nuremberg 1483). Two of the 3 Basel imprints are works of St. Augustine.

2.3 Later Works. The later holdings of Germanic imprints are varied. Of the pre-Reformation items many were presented to the monastery or have monastic annotations. There are a number of 16th-century Bibles and commentaries from Geneva and Basel in various languages. Both towns are otherwise fairly well represented and include the Venerable Bede's Opera (Basel 1573), formerly in the monastery of the ``Augustinerchorherren' of Baumberg (and then in the Royal Library of Munich). A group of German 16th and early 17th-century works were given in the 1630s by John Cosin (1595-1672), later Bishop of Durham. It contained 10 works from Basel, Frankfurt a. M., Heidelberg, Geneva, Hamburg, Mainz and Herborn, ranging in date from 1587 to 1642, mostly on legal and religious subjects but including two items of Spanish interest, namely M. Juande's Historiae de rebus Hispaniae (Mainz 1605) and Andreas Schottus, Hispaniae bibliotheca (Frankfurt a. M. 1618). Some books were given in the 1630s but others may have come with a later donation of 1664. Also noteworthy are incomplete copies of two editions of Johann Israel de Bry's India Orientalis issued in Frankfurt between 1601-1607 and 1624-1628.

2.4 University theses. The most significant body of material of interest to German researchers is the collection of several thousand continental university theses from Scandinavia, the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland and Poland, dating from the early 16th century to about 1800 and including some items in the vernacular. Many of the theses were acquired from the collection of Joseph Holden Pott, Archdeacon of London, the son of the distinguished physician Percival Pott. Joseph Pott died in 1847 and his library was sold in that year. Another body of material was transferred from Durham University Library in the 19th century. The German and Swiss items date between 1532 and 1769. The major holdings are Altdorf (1673-1759), Greifswald (1619-1738), Helmstedt (1586-1759), Jena (1616-1759), Königsberg (1615-1735), Leipzig (1631-1769), Rostock (1619-1761), Strasbourg (1625-1728) and Wittenberg (1532-1763).


Main catalogue

[Comprises sheaf author/title slips and is housed in the Library Office in the Loft. Copies are incorporated into the University Library sheaf catalogues at Palace Green and the Main Library. Additional indexes of former owners, imprints and bindings are to be found in the Refectory.]

Imprints index of the thesis collection


[Holdings of the Dean and Chapter Library are included in the author catalogue based upon a print-out from the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), held in the University's Special Collections reading room and annotated with shelfmarks.]

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)


Hughes, H. D.: A history of Durham Cathedral Library, with an introduction and additional chapter on some later Durham bibliophiles by J. M. Falkner. Durham 1925

Ker, N. R.: Medieval libraries of Great Britain. London 1964

Norris, R. C.: The library of the Dean and Chapter of Durham. Durham 1988 (available free from the Library)

Forster, L. W.: Zeseniana in der Domkapitelbibliothek zu Durham. In: Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag von Hans-Gert Reloff. Bd 1. Bern 1992, S. 893-903 [contains a discussion of a small number of Germanic dissertations]

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, p. 69

July 1997

Alastair Hugh Fraser

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