I've decided to wrap up this blog (well over a year after my last entry) with copies of my final projects. Of course, this is all my work- and you can't copy it or own it, or if you choose to use it, you must credit me.
Short Report on St. Paul's Cathedral Library"Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice"
(Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you).
~ Engraving on a memorial to Christopher Wren, St. Paul's Cathedral Architect
Introduction: A History of the St. Paul's Cathedral Library
St. Paul's Cathedral has long been reputed for being not only a place of worship and public assembly, but also as a place for learning. Dating back to the late 1100's, many of St. Paul's canons were scholars of law and theology, studying elsewhere in Europe but returning to St. Paul's. Though the earliest book-lists are dated 1245, it is evident that prior to that point in time, the cathedral itself was a “site of intellectual stimulation”(Keene, Burns, and Saint 27). Doctors, lawyers, teachers and theologians surround the church's long history. A theologian by the name of Peter of Cornwall, while visiting St. Paul's to hear a sermon “was amazed at its number of distinctions, flowers of words and copious authorities” indicating that the church and its canons were well-read and highly educated (Keene, Burns, and Saint 27). As such, the importance of learning, research and study surrounding the cathedral is quite evident through the history and personal accounts of those who visited St. Paul's much earlier than the Great Fire of 1666 (and Wren's rebuild). The first mention of the cathedral holding divine and secular works for the city of London occurs in the twelfth century. Individuals who were responsible for the collection were masters of the local schools, and Master Durand was the first individual to gain responsibility for the first recorded collection. His successor (Hugh) was charged with creating a list of the books and placing one copy of this list in the cathedral treasury (Keene, Burns, and Saint, 413).
Little is known about the holdings of the original collection, but one may surmise that St. Paul's held mainly title-deeds and documents outlining the property ownership of bishops and others who were involved with the cathedral, in addition to religious and ecclesiastic works. Through the years that followed 1245, the most detailed and thoroughly researched inventory lists include not only book holdings, but all of the property in the church- altars, furniture, etc. Dean Ralph Baldock created the most detailed inventories of the cathedral's properties beginning in 1295, and continued to create lists through 1313, while he was bishop of London. The later lists include “a miscellaneous collection of about 150 volumes” ranging from medicine and law to scholastic theology. However, if one were to “judge from the library catalogue of 1458, the cathedral kept the theological books but rejected most of the legal works” (Keene, Burns, and Saint 414).
Two friends by the names of Walter Sherrington and Thomas Lisieux (prebendaries from the mid-to-late 1400's) made contributions to the library collection. Sherrington through book donations and Lisieux through his intricately detailed records of cathedral holdings. (Notably, Lisieux's lists are incredibly organized and still a valuable guide to cathedral holdings that have been lost over the years.)
After 1458 the collection grew as a result of donations from not only Sherrington, but also John Somerset (Henry VI's physician), and Thomas Gascoigne (theologian and polymath) to name only a few. Between 1458 and 1540, the cathedral's library collection nearly doubled (Keene, Burns, and Saint 417). During this time most antiquarian and valuable books were still held in the cathedral treasury, while books in the library were chained. Library books were also available for loan for a term of up to six months, “but only if approved by the dean and chapter and upon the giving of sufficient surety” (Keene, Burns, and Saint 416).
As the years passed, parts of the library seemingly vanished according to certain catalogs that were kept in the 16th and 17th centuries. A few individuals are known to have taken off with parts of the collection, including one Sir Robert Cotton, who (it is surmised) would remove the ex libris from books and manuscripts he took from the library, to prohibit readers from knowing the previous owner was in fact St. Paul's Cathedral Library (Keene, Burns, and Saint 418). Books were also moved to various locations for safe-keeping due to the Reformation and different civil wars. Portions of the library's collection were sent to Sion College, and also to William Dugdale at Lambeth Palace, who had volunteered to sort out various legal items that were (at that time) sent from other cathedrals to be housed at St. Paul's (Keene, Burns, and Saint 419). And of course, in 1666 the Great Fire of London “destroyed tens of thousands of volumes at St. Paul's” though many of those are notably books that were stored in the crypt for booksellers. Though they were lucky to remove some books from the cathedral before the fire ravaged the building, most of the items that were salvaged were religious and legal documents belonging to the church. Of the library's holdings, what survived the Great Fire of London were those items that were not in the cathedral during the blaze. Thankfully some of these items are still owned by the library (though the archives are at Guildhall), and a document lists the twenty-four printed works and three manuscripts that survived the fire (Keene, Burns, and Saint 420).
It is evident from Wren's design of the cathedral that he intended for a library space to exist in the post-fire building, even if his designs did not include the word “library” in them (Keene, Burns, and Saint 420).. When the rebuilding of the cathedral was completed, individuals began donating their own collections to become St. Paul's Cathedral Library. Humfrey Wanley, William Beveridge, but most notably Henry Compton (Bishop of London from 1675-1713) all donated books. Compton's contribution was substantial in size, but likewise in quality. As such, his donation was greatly appreciated by the church, and a painting of Compton still hangs above the fireplace in the library today.
Through the years that followed, the collection continued to grow. It can be assumed that at some time visitors to the library were charged a fee to enter, and that including the library on a tourist's walk-about would permit a view of the geometric staircase, which is truly a work of art and physics not to be missed. In 1862 William sparrow Simpson began a conservation effort of the 8,000 decaying books within the collection, re-binding about 3,400 of them (Matthews 265). Simpson also implemented an acquisitions policy, adding a large number of items relating to the cathedral, the history and City of London to the collection, and created a catalogue of holdings. His contributions and efforts are evident even today in the library (Matthews 265).
Physical Aspects of the Library
The St. Paul's Cathedral Library has been in existence for over 300 years. A spiral geometric staircase of 90 individual steps built by Dean Kempster leads two revolutions up to the Triphorium level of the church. Though unsure what the original purpose of this Triphorium area was for, upon walking through the hallways to the Trophy Room that houses Christopher Wren's Great Model. The oak and plaster 1:25 scale model represents the “cathedral Wren yearned to build, totally symmetrical, its portico a double rank each with either giant columns. The walls would be a single storey [sic] throughout, so that the dome dominated” (Saunders 60). The room in which the Great Model stands was originally meant to be a Library or Reading Room (according to current Cathedral Librarian Jo Wisdom). This is evident in the appearance of the pilasters reaching up the walls. The sculpted pilasters illustrate quill pens, books and ink pots climbing towards the ceiling. Windows that begin very high up on the wall also point toward Wren's intent that these rooms serve as reading rooms, in order for appropriate lighting to come through the glass, and also to place high bookshelves beneath the windows themselves. The ceiling of the Trophy Room is incredibly high, and some believe the ceiling design of this room was created to encourage the flow of ideas and studies to rise-up to the height of the curved tent-like ceilings (Wisdom).
The current Cathedral Library collection is housed in a room that has been working as the theological library of St. Paul's since 1720 (Saunders 111). Wooden bookshelves surround all four walls, complete with a second level (accessible by staircase), and some glass encased shelves in corners of the room. Much of the woodwork on the ornate shelves was created by Jonathan Maine (Saunders, 111). Once again decorative pilasters climb the walls between shelves, this time decorated with more deeply cut iconography (wheat, grapes, human skulls, books) representing the Holy Communion and also the familiar Latin phrase Mimento Mori, or “Remember death”. (These symbols were created to remind theological scholars of their motivation for studies, their mortality as well as the quest for knowledge while remembering the quest for eternal salvation.) Roughly six large desk-areas exist in the middle of the room, providing ample working space for the librarian and volunteers. One or two of the desks may be from Wren's period, though most of the furniture within the current library is much newer, from the 19th century (Wisdom).
St. Paul's Cathedral Library Today
The library that exists today at St. Paul's looks very much as it did originally, beautifully carved bookshelves and volumes that are held fast with binding tape to avoid further damage. According to the current librarian, there are approximately 13,500 volumes housed within the cathedral library, at least two-thirds of which date prior to the 1800s. Only one book that survived the Great Fire is housed in the library at this time, and it is a Pre-Reformation choir book from the 13th century. The fittings within the library are mostly from the 19th century, though one or two may be from Wren's period.
Items are organized on the shelves by size, which brings into question the process of finding books. Though manual listings of items still exist (and are used often) to find books, the library has integrated a computerized catalogue as well. To keep costs low, the library imported electronic records from other collections, and at this point in time these records still need to be tweaked a bit. (The data needs to be “cleaned up” to be sure it accurately reflects what is currently in the collection, as well as indicates where it is located on the shelf.) The manual listings utilize the English Short Title Catalogue. This card catalog lists the author, and a press-mark that displays a “number of the section, the letter for the shelf, and number for the position on the shelf (i.e. 8.F.12, or section 8, shelf F, 12th book on the shelf)” (Hitchcock 15).
Though not included in the normal tour of the cathedral, one may visit the library if prior arrangements are made with the cathedral librarian. Only working three days per week (part-time) the library is often staffed by one volunteer who helps to pull books for individuals who come in asking to perform research. The library is currently involved in cathedral publications, education and conservation of their holdings. Though the cathedral library does not currently have a “Strategic Plan”, they do observe Objectives, or planning areas, to guide the work of the library. St. Paul's Cathedral Library strives to provide an information resource for the cathedral and the wider public, and to preserve and exploit early books and manuscripts (Wisdom). The preservation efforts in place at the library at this time include careful monitoring of the building structure, including keeping an eye on a suspicious corner of the ceiling that has experienced water damage over the years. In addition to observation, the library also runs two domestic humidifiers to help keep moisture from damaging the books. Relative humidity is recommended at about 44-55% for items within the library, and a temperature of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit is monitored with several thermometers strategically placed among the shelves. Though these steps serve as precautionary measures, the library has had its fair share of obstacles regarding preservation of the collection. The library's previous librarian would often bring plants into the library as well as cloth rugs, both which are not recommended for use around rare books. The current librarian has come across items hidden in corners that were regrettably put away damp, and were ruined by mold. Wooly bears, or the larvae of the tiger moth have also been known to exist among the collection. To prevent these infestations, the library has set up insect traps in hopes to avoid any damage caused by paper/adhesive-seeking bugs (Wisdom).
The current St. Paul's Cathedral Library exists and is open for “all who an make good use of the collection” (Wisdom). Because the items within the collection are so delicate, and perhaps because the cathedral is familiar with losing items due to disasters or theft, items are not available for-loan at St. Paul's. Though not open everyday, nor looked after by a librarian daily, the library at St. Paul's is clearly an important treasure that only few have the pleasure of visiting. St. Paul's has long been associated with learning and books, be it booksellers in the churchyard, collecting public records and muniments, or Wren's design of the library itself. A visit to the library of St. Paul's Cathedral will lend a better understanding and new insight into the long history and relationship between books and St. Paul's.
Hitchcock, Jeannette M. "Some London Libraries." Pacific Bindery Talk 11 (1938): 12-16.
Keene, Derek, Arthur Burns, and Andrew Saint. St. Paul's: the Cathedral Church of London 604-2004. New Haven & London: Yale UP, 2004. 1-537.
Matthews, Walter R., and W. M. Atkins. History of St. Paul's Cathedral. London: Phoenix House Ltd., 1957. 1-380.
Saunders, Ann. St. Paul's: the Story of the Cathedral. London: Collins & Brown, 2001. 1-218.
Wisdom, Jo. Personal interview. 30 July 2007.
The Library of Dean and Chapter is Situated At Triforium Level Behind the South-West Tower in a Chamber Designed for It by Wren. St. Paul's Cathedral Library, London. The Library. St. Paul's Cathedral. 4 Sept. 2007