Westminster Abbey Library & Research | Books, Records, Documents & More
The Westminster Abbey Library is the abode to a few of the most ancient manuscripts, archives, and other significant documents related to the Abbey and its history. The library has some of the oldest printed books, manuscripts, and Archives in writing. The library is situated inside Westminster Abbey, London. Keep reading to know about the library at Westminster Abbey and why you should visit it at least once.
What Is Westminster Abbey Library?
Westminster Abbey’s library Houses some of the most historical manuscripts from the medieval era. The present library has been in existence since 1591. It has around 14000 books that are more than 200 years old. It also has a collection of manuscripts and printed manuscript music along with an extensive photographic collection.
Westminster Abbey Library Opening Times
Tuesdays to Thursdays: 10:30 AM to 4 PM
Note: The library may be closed on some days due to special events at the abbey.
How did Westminster Abbey’s Library Come into Existence?
The Westminster Abbey library was earlier a dormitory room in the monastery; later, it was converted into a library in the 16th century. The first 2000 books in this library were installed in 1623 after Dean John Williams installed a book press here at his own expense.
The collection slowly grew in the 17th and 18th centuries when books were bought, bequeathed or given to the library. Dean Zachary Pearce also left all of his books in this library in 1774. The abbey’s collection of books on its own history grew over time, and today, it has a magnificent collection of books, manuscripts, documents and collections that allow you to see the stories of the past as clear as day.
How to Visit Westminster Abbey Library?
If you are interested in historical manuscripts, Muniments, and pictures, you will enjoy your visit to the Westminster Abbey Library. However, you need to make an appointment first. The seating capacity is limited at the library. For the students to visit the library, they will need a letter of introduction from their supervisor. If somehow you cannot visit the library in person and need some digital copies or photocopies of the documents, you can also send a request and the library will help you out.
Westminster Abbey Library Collection
There are more than 14000 books here that were printed before 1801, about 60 manuscripts from the medieval period, and a massive manuscript music collection.
Some Famous manuscripts include the Litlington missal available in two volumes, Liber Regalis and the prayer book of Lady Margaret Beaufort. These manuscripts are present in the Queen's diamond jubilee gallery in the library.
Apart from its valuable medieval collection, the library also houses some popular modern collections. These include the history of Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church. There you can also find books on British coronations and other similar topics.
The center of attraction at the Westminster Abbey library is the magnificent Muniment collection. The muniment collection includes records of the land held by the Abbey throughout its history. The abbey had a vast land in Southern England and the midlands of the United Kingdom. This collection also shows us the financial records of many administrations of monarchs.
Other documents of significance include Royal charters, minutes of the Chapter meetings, records of properties that the abbey had leased, records of the coronation and funerals of significant figures, an extensive collection of letters, bills of the tradesmen, documents in the Hebrew language and records of the coroner's inquest in the city of Westminster during 1760-1880. Today, you can find all the old records of the chapter house in the National Archives.
The Westminster Abbey library itself has a large collection of high-resolution pictures that you can view to get a sense of the beauty of the abbey from afar. You can also download them for personal use.
View Westminster Abbey’s photo gallery here.
The Westminster Abbey record series was created in 1997. This series publishes items of historical significance and interest. These documents are mostly related to the Abbey and its history and include records, calendars, lists, and indexes. The intention behind making these records is to provide the contents of the collection of the Abbey to the general public and scholars who need the resources for academic purposes.
The abbey has an extensive cataloging and indexing system for their medieval, early modern, and most of their modern archives. Westminster Domesday, Liber Niger, and St. Martin Le Grand are the three main Abbey medieval cartularies. There are also separate indexes for collections and leased books. Westminster Abbey is also setting up a digital database that will have a separate card index to view the library’s contents.
Some of the records available from the Westminster Abbey library are coroner's inquests, Manor and the court rolls, denizens' rolls, and the list of Church of England clergy.
The coroner’s inquiries cover the various judicial inquisitions from 1760 to 1799. However, some of these records are missing. The court rolls keep a record of the manors, their rent paid, and the tenants of the manors. A complete list of the record is available at the National Archives.
Denizens’ rolls were very useful in keeping the record of the population and the immigrants of the country. The roll is 160 feet long. However, the role doesn't mention the names of wives and children in the original document.
Frequenstly Asked Questions About Westminster Abbey Library
A. Yes, there is a library at Westminster Abbey.
A. Westminster Abbey's Library is filled with books, documents, records, and other collections from its history. This includes books, muniments, photographs, record series, catalogs and online records.
A. Yes, anyone visiting Westminster Abbey can visit the library as well. However, you may need to make an appointment beforehand as there is limited seating at the library. If you are a student, you will need a letter of recommendation from your supervisor.
A. Westminster Abbey Library is open from Tuesdays to Thursdays from 10:30 AM to 4 PM.
A. If you need a photocopy or digital copy of any records from Westminster Abbey's Library, then you can place a request for it at the library itself. If in case you are unable to come to the abbey's library in person, you can send a request and the library staff will help you out.