28 May 2024

Salisbury Cathedral is opening its library doors to the public this October half-term

Step beyond the library door this October half-term as Salisbury Cathedral mark the end of a major National Heritage Lotter Fund Project.

The celebrations will see the Cathedral host a series of Open Afternoons and events to share some of the information and items discovered during the project, as well as a few ‘behind the scenes’ details.

Beyond the Library Door – Discover Salisbury Cathedral Library runs from Monday 25th October to Friday 29th October, when the Library will be open and free to visit between 1pm and 4pm daily. A specially themed children’s book trail around the Cathedral will also be available.

During this three-year project books from the Cathedral’s remarkable collection of more than 10,000 volumes were fully catalogued for the very first time, including information on previous owners, inscriptions and bindings. Alongside the cataloguing work, an enthusiastic group of volunteers also cleaned the books, removing decades of grime and dust.

Cathedral Archivist and Head of the Library Emily Naish said, “We are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for championing this amazing project, which was launched back in 2017 by John Glen, MP for Salisbury. As a result of the book cleaning and cataloguing work we have gained some unexpected insights into our wonderful collection – and we are delighted to be able to share what we’ve discovered during this special Library week“.

The end-of-project celebrations culminate in a ‘Library Day’ on Saturday 30th October when visitors can attend talks and find out more about the things that were discovered ‘Beyond the Library Door’.

The day starts at 11.15am with an illustrated talk in the Cathedral’s North Transept, describing the project and discussing a collection of books on the plague written in the 1600s, and the Library’s 43 incunabula, or very early printed books, made before 1501.

Following the talk, the Library is open to visitors from 12.30-14.00. It’s a chance to see some of the Library’s books up close and to chat to the Library volunteers. Sited above the East Cloisters, the Library is reached via 37 uneven stone spiral steps, so a degree of mobility is required to get up there.

For those who may find the climb challenging, Christopher Wren’s notebooks with his recommendations for securing the Cathedral’s Spire are on display at ground level, in the North Quire Aisle.

A second illustrated talk at 14.15 in the North Transept explores special features found in some of the Library books, from coloured printing to decorative bindings, music to maps, and even (if you are up for it) a squashed mouse, trapped in the pages of a Latin textbook by choristers over two hundred years ago.

Between 15.15-16.30 there’s another opportunity to visit the Library, and throughout the day children (and adults, if they wish) can have a go at calligraphy, make their own bookmark, or enjoy the special book trail.

Details of the Beyond the Library Door celebratory events can be found here. No booking is required for the talks or to visit the Library when it is open, however, due to restricted numbers at any one time in the Library, visitors may need to queue at busy times.

Photography by Ash Mills.

Written by
Beth Doherty
View all articles
Written by Beth Doherty