(Picture: Archivist Emily Naish with John Glen, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism)
Thousands of rare books, some nearly 600 years old, are set to be catalogued thanks to £73,500 of National Lottery funding, Heritage Minister John Glen announced on Monday, 30 October.
Made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund
(HLF), the three year project will see volunteers help to create a searchable digital catalogue of books held in the collection – most for the very first time.
John Glen, Heritage Minister and MP for Salisbury, who visited the Cathedral to mark the funding success of the project, said: “I am delighted to learn of this significant HLF grant to Salisbury Cathedral. The money will be used to open up a historically fascinating collection of over 10,000 books to a much wider audience. This is a brilliant example of where National Lottery players are helping to support our national heritage.”
The Cathedral Library was built in 1445 and the original medieval book chains still survive, however many of the books in the collection are currently undocumented and their conditions unrecorded. Volunteers will play a key role alongside staff to protect their literary heritage and will receive training in cataloguing, cleaning rare books and creating condition records.
More than 10,000 books will become available to explore for free online - the collection spans from the 15th century to the present day on topics from mathematics and astronomy to medicine and religion. As well as Salisbury Cathedral library, books from Sarum College Library and Gillingham parish will also be part of the project.
Books and documents from the Cathedral collection are regularly shared through public workshops, tours
and talks, which enable people of all ages to delve into the stories and collections of the Library.
Sarah Rickett, Director of Outreach and Learning, who has managerial responsibility for the Library and Archive said: “It has long been our aim to make the library and archives accessible not just to academics, but to the local community and visitors. It is a collection of some significance and this generous grant from the Heritage Lottery fund will allow us to learn more about the treasures we own and to share them more widely. It is also a golden opportunity to train individuals in the management and care of rare books and their bindings.”
Emily Naish, Salisbury Cathedral archivist, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to really transform our knowledge of and access to the Cathedral’s library and archive collections. Up until now we have relied on an out of date catalogue compiled in 1880 so this project will finally allow us to enter the modern era. With the help of volunteers we are really looking forward to finding out more about our books and documents and also sharing them locally and nationally."
The Cathedral library has a continuous history dating back to the old Norman Cathedral at Old Sarum but this project will focus on the largest section of that collection, around 10,000 printed books including:
- A 1611-13 copy of Edmund Spenser's 'The Fairie Queene'
- An 17th century account of the coronation preparations for James II from 1688
- A Catholicon or biblical dictionary printed in 1497 which re-used waste pages from a William Caxton print. The dictionary contains notes on the flyleaf that are amongst the earliest and rarest evidence of French Basse danses, which were late medieval period court dances
- A beautifully bound 16th century book by Martin Luther which bears an image of the author on the front cover
Updates, blogs and highlights from the project will be shared on our website.
For further information regarding the Heritage Lottery Fund contact Rebecca Harris, Heritage Lottery Fund press office, on 020 7591 6027
For any other enquiries contact Marie Thomas, Salisbury Cathedral press office, on 01722 555 148