There has been a library at Lichfield Cathedral since the earliest times. The Cathedral’s original collection of manuscripts and early printed books was lost during the Civil War, when the old brick library located north of the nave was much damaged and looted.
The current library lies immediately above the Chapter House. Built in 1249, this upper room would have probably been the Treasury, spacious enough to house the Cathedral’s plate and library of manuscripts. Gradually augmented, this early library probably contained both historical and theological works for use by the canons. In the late 15th century Deans Heywode and Yotton gave money to build a new detached library on the north side of the Cathedral. This library was stripped of all its books and fittings during the Civil War.
Refitted by Dean Smallwood for the reception of the Duchess of Somerset’s bequest in 1673, it was demolished in 1758. The Cathedral Library has occupied the space above the Chapter House since that date.
The current collection has been built up through generous gifts and loans. The Duchess of Somerset’s bequest of 1000 volumes from her late husband’s library included manuscripts and early printed books. This bequest included the fine 15th century ms of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Orders of Charles I for the regulation of the Prince’s Household, signed by the king and the 8th century St Chad Gospels which the duchess looked after during the Civil War. Other treasures in the library collection include a 15th century ms Wycliffe New Testament, a Henry VIII Great Bible, a newly acquired 1578 Bishops’ Bible and a fine collection of rare and interesting King James’ Bibles.
The library also houses a significant collection of early printed and manuscript music from the 17th and 18th centuries. This is mostly church music, but also instrumental music. The most important works are the seven Barnard part books, the most complete set in existence and an invaluable resource for Tudor church music.
The St Chad Gospels (dating from around 730) are now on permanent display in the Chapter House together with the Lichfield Angel, discovered in 2003 during excavations in the nave. Additional new cabinets in the Chapter House and north quire aisle now display treasures from the library, which are regularly changed.
The Library is used by scholars from universities and researchers, and we encourage public interest in the library through our library tours.
You can download our library catalogue below.
Cathedral Library Catalogue - Printed Books (pdf)
The cathedral's music is catalogued on the following Repertoire International des Sources Musicales - to access please clik the following link:
http://www.rism.org.uk/ or click here to go directly to the Lichfield listing.