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Treasures of Durham Cathedral Library events bring the art of language to life

02 May 2019

Durham Cathedral’s Refectory Library, a space usually closed to visitors, is preparing to open its doors for two very special Treasures of Durham Cathedral Library events on 8 May and 15 June.

Guests will be able to take in the magnificent 17th Century Library housed in the space previously used as a dining room by the monks of medieval Durham Priory, whilst enjoying a specially curated selection of rare early printed books and manuscripts on the theme of languages. The selection will include books written in Spanish, German, Anglo-Saxon, Norman French, Welsh, Chinese and even Cornish. 

On display will be the earliest printed book in the Cathedral Library written in English, The Book of Divers Ghostly Matters which was printed by William Caxton in the 15th century; the earliest surviving copy in existence of a 13th century manuscript poem in Norman French; and an 18th century volume which contains the Lord’s Prayer translated into 100 different languages. 
Also on display will be one of the most famous books in the world, A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson, as well as the first printed edition of the complete Bible in Spanish, La Bibila. 

Alison Cullingford, Head of Collections, said: ‘When people think of Durham Cathedral, their image is probably the view from the River Wear or the breath-taking Norman nave. However the Cathedral has many more spaces, stories and secrets to discover.  The Refectory Library is one of the most impressive. The Treasures of Durham Cathedral Library events allow us to reveal this beautiful, hidden, space to the public, and to share our passion for these very rare examples of early printing.’

Two sessions will run on each date, the first between 2.00pm-3.00pm and the second 3.30pm-4.30pm. 

Tickets are priced at £5 per adult and £4.50 per concession. As availability is limited, booking is essential and can be done by calling the Visitor Desk on 0191 338 7178. Please note that for the June event only, booking can also be completed online at: