Peep at Lichfield Cathedral map is out of this world

A world atlas from 1584 is one of the rare items on display at Lichfield Cathedral’s library.

The 1584 atlas which is one of the rare items on display
The 1584 atlas which is one of the rare items on display

The library is being opened up to the public for tours so visitors can get a glimpse of its best books and manuscripts.

The library has been housed in the upper room of the Chapter House since 1758.

It houses a collection of treasures including 15th century hand-copied manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, one of three surviving original copies of Christopher Saxton’s maps of Tudor England, and a manuscript of illustrations issued by and signed by Charles I.

The library was built in 1249 and would have probably been the treasury – spacious enough to house the Cathedral’s plate and collection of manuscripts.

This early library most likely contained both historical and theological works for use by the canons. In the late 15th century, Deans Heywode and Yotton gave money to build a new detached library on the north side of the cathedral. This library was stripped of all its books and fittings during the Civil War.

Library manager Clare Townsend in the impressive library room at Lichfield Cathedral

Refitted by Dean Smallwood for the reception of the Duchess of Somerset’s bequest in 1673, it was then demolished in 1758. The Cathedral library has occupied the space on the upper level of the Chapter House since this date. The current collection has been built up through generous gifts and loans.

The Duchess of Somerset’s donation of 1,000 volumes from her late husband’s library included manuscripts and early printed books.

This included the 15th century manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Orders of Charles I for the regulation of the Prince’s Household, and the 8th century St Chad Gospels which the Duchess looked after during the civil war

Tours are £19 per person and are planned for November 6 and 9 at 10.30am.

Tickets available in the Cathedral gift area, by phoning 01543 306150, or through the online box office via

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