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Medieval Libraries and Manuscripts


As time went on, the number of the books would naturally increase, and by the beginning[Pg 25] of the fifteenth century the larger monasteries at least had accumulated many hundred volumes. For instance, at Christ Church, Canterbury, at the beginning of the 14th century, there were 698. These had to be bestowed in various parts of the House without order or selection,—in presses set up wherever a vacant corner could be found—to the great inconvenience, we may be sure, of the more studious monks, or of scholars who came to consult them. To remedy such a state of things a definite room was constructed for books—in addition to the presses in the cloister, which were still retained for the books in daily use. A few instances of this will suffice. At Christ Church, Canterbury, a library was built between 1414 and 1443 by Archbishop Chichele, over the Prior's Chapel; at Durham between 1416 and 1446 by Prior Wessyngton, over the old sacristy; at Citeaux in 1480, over the writing-room (scriptorium); at Clairvaux between 1495 and 1503, in the same position; at S. Victor in Paris—an Augustinian House—between 1501[Pg 26] and 1508; and at S. Germain des Prés in the same city about 1513, over the south cloister.

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