Beyond the library door

Two hundred year old squashed mouse … and other treasures revealed.

Salisbury Cathedral Library will celebrate the end of its National Heritage Lottery Fund Project, Beyond the Library Door this half term.

Salisbury Cathedral is celebrating the end of a three-year National Heritage Lottery Fund project with a series of open afternoons and events for all ages this half term to share some of the information and items discovered during the Beyond the Library Door project.

This three year project saw the cathedral’s collection of more than 10,000 books fully catalogued for the very first-time, including collating information on previous owners, inscriptions and bindings.

Findings include Sir Christopher Wren’s notebooks which detail his concerns that the Cathedral spire might topple due to it not being truly vertical – and a 200 year old squashed mouse found between the pages of a Latin textbook.

Beyond the library door - salisbury cathedral

And alongside the cataloguing work, a group of volunteers have cleaned the books, removing decades of grime and dust.

Beyond the Library Door – Discover Salisbury Cathedral Library runs from Monday 25 October to Friday 29 October, when the library will be open and free to visit between 1300 and 1600.

There is also a specially themed children’s book trail around the Cathedral.

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 30 October when visitors can attend talks and find out more about the things that were discovered ‘Beyond the Library Door’.

The day starts at 11.15 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.

Beyond the library door - salisbury cathedral

The Library is sited above the East Cloisters so is reached by 37 uneven stone spiral steps – so for those who may find the climb challenging, Christopher Wren’s notebooks are on display at ground level, in the North Quire Aisle.

Wren had been commissioned to survey the Cathedral and his subsequent report, published on 28 April 1668, expresses concern that the Spire is not entirely vertical. Using plumblines, Wren determined that apex of the spire leaned 27 ½inches  to the south and 17 inches  to the west of its true position.

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 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)  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 on the Cathedral website.

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.