Our library

The library at Carlisle is a remarkable collection of over 8,000 volumes. The collection comprises books bequeathed by two principal donors: Henry Hutton, a Canon of the Cathedral during the late 17th century; and Thomas Smith, who was a Bishop of Carlisle, and a truly great scholar. The oldest books in the collection include a 15th century Bible and an early copy of the Koran.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”

Carlisle Cathedral

Our Library – a History

The original, medieval library was lost and probably destroyed in the Commonwealth period. No volumes from that time remain in the present library. In 1691, however, the library was re-founded with the donation of the library of Canon Henry Hutton by Canon Arthur Savage. Canon Hutton had been a Canon of the Cathedral until he was ejected under the Commonwealth, and died before the Restoration of 1660. He was a scholar of early Christian writers (Patristics) and his library consisted mainly of volumes by patristic writers published in 16th and 17th century editions. There are rare volumes amongst them, some in contemporary bindings.

In 1702 Bishop Thomas Smith died and left his library to the Cathedral. He was a scholar and book collector with wide ranging interests, which are reflected in his books. His religious subjects range from Roman Missals to the works of Calvin, and although most of his books are theological, they also include classical Greek and Roman authors, history, law, literature, mathematics, and the sciences. His numerous volumes of tracts and sermons include many rare items.

As a consequence of his book collecting, among English cathedral libraries only Canterbury and York have larger holdings of published works in English for the period 1641-1700. On the twin foundation of the libraries of Henry Hutton and Thomas Smith the Cathedral library has been built up. That a number of the Deans and Canons of Carlisle had scientific interests is reflected in the fact that the library has the first 120 volumes of the transactions of the Royal Society.


You can find more information about Carlisle Cathedral’s library collection by searching the following catalogues:

  • English Short Title Catalogue covers monographs and serial letterpress printed before 1801 in Britain, Ireland, the United States and overseas territories under British colonial rule.  The ESTC also includes material printed elsewhere which contains significant English text. To search the ESTC: from the “Search by” drop-down list, select “library name” and enter “Carlisle Cathedral”.
  • The Library Hub (formerly COPAC) covers books printed outside Great Britain and North America before 1701. To search COPAC: under “keyword” enter “Carlisle Cathedral” and under “Library” select “Cathedral Libraries”. For titles printed after 1700, please consult Carlisle Cathedral’s Eighteenth Century Holdings of Books Printed outside Great Britain and North America.

If you would like more information, please contact the Library staff through the Cathedral Office.

Carlisle Cathedral