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Durham Cathedral Library is the UK's largest in situ medieval monastic library.

300 manuscripts have been in the Durham collections since before the Reformation in the 16th century.

Printed books from 1473

The Cathedral’s printed books date from 1473. They contain collections of some pre-Reformation printed works, and others acquired by the Cathedral Chapter. We also administer a modern theological lending library on behalf of Lord Crewe’s Charity in the Sharp Library.

The Chapter collection of printed books is very broad. It includes Bibles, commentaries, history, law, natural history, polemics, classics, travel, atlases and Hebraica. The Refectory Library contains around 30,000 titles published between the 16th and 19th centuries.

There is also a substantial collection of local maps and prints and a very large collection of 17th to 18th century dissertations from European universities.

Post-1851 collection

The post-1851 collection specialises in church history, local history, bibliography and architecture, as well as some limited periodical runs – both complete and ongoing.

Antiquarian collections

The Antiquarian collections include transcripts, extracts and notes and documents of:

  • Christopher Hunter (acquired in 1757)
  • George Allan and Thomas Randall (1823)
  • Cuthbert Sharp (1851)
  • William Longstaffe
  • Robert Surtees, one of the most eminent historians of the county of Durham
  • James Raine, (1791–1858)  antiquarian, topographer and Cathedral Librarian

More recently, papers belonging to some 19th and 20th-century Bishops of Durham have been deposited in the Cathedral Library.

Music collections

The Cathedral Library holds a significant collection of both manuscript and printed music, religious and secular. Access can be arranged for academics and researchers.

Approximately 6% of all the surviving English liturgical music manuscripts from 1625 – 1640 are represented by our twenty-nine manuscripts from this period.
Within the printed music collections, there are several examples of unique surviving items.

The manuscript music is mainly made up of organ books and part-books used by the cathedral choir from the early 17th century to the 19th century. However secular music is also included in the collections.

Instrumental music is represented, in part, in the donations made by Philip Falle (1656-1742) and Richard Fawcett (1714-82).