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Manuscripts for the Web 2.0 Age

Here you will find information about some of the rarest documents, manuscripts and maps housed within the ancient walls of Worcester Cathedral library.

Welcome to Worcester Cathedral Manuscripts for the Web 2.0 Age!
A collaboration between the Worcester Cathedral Library and the University of Worcester, funded by the latter as a VRS - Vacation Research Studentship (2011), this research project was conducted by Raven Brookes (a joint honours student in English Literary and Language Studies) and supervised by Dr. Nicoleta Cinpoes (Institue of Humanities and Creative Arts) and Dr. David Morrison (Worcester Cathedral Library).

The History of the Library and the Strands of the Collection
The earliest mentions of the Cathedral Library were thought to have dated back to 1057, when it was believed that the pious Lady Godiva, wife of Leofric, Duke of Mercia gave to the monks of the Church of Worcester, upon her husband’s death, a library. However, this was due to a misunderstanding of the word ‘Bibliotheca’ which, although has since become known to mean ‘library’, was then a word accepted to mean ‘bible’, which means that Lady Godiva did not give the monks of the Church of Worcester a library, but a Bible in two volumes. However, it was probable that a library of sorts existed as early as the seventh century. The location of the library has been changed more than once and theories regarding where the library has stood are based on external and physical evidence alone. As documentation of its relocation around the cathedral has ever been uncovered, the history of the library remains uncertain. The library as it stands today, is believed to be a late Norman construction (fourteenth century). The majority of the collection, into the present day, has been donated or housed in the library for safe keeping and preservation, over time.

The library is a long narrow room, 121 feet long and just over 19 feet wide, situated at the south aisle of the church. It sits atop a winding flight of forty stone steps, in the south west turret, and overlooks the cloisters.

The collection holds four distinct strands of artifacts:

-medieval manuscripts, 277 volumes, dating from the eleventh century to the sixteenth century, amongst which unique artefacts such as the Antiphoner (1200 AD);

-muniments, consisting of volumes of manuscripts, historical or financial, charters and indentures, rolls and accounts of officers of the convent or bailiffs, correspondence and manor or court rolls, amongst which a collection of King Charles I's letters to Bishop John Prideaux;

-printed books, of which there are over 5,000, amongst which the Second Book of Common Prayer;

-maps and atlases, including a wealth of local maps dating back to the sixteenth century.

Contained within the library there are also leaves and fragments of earlier manuscripts dating back as early as the mid-seventh century.