The Cathedral Libraries Catalogue

Books printed before 1701
in the libraries of
the Anglican Cathedrals of England and Wales


David J. Shaw
(formerly) School of European Culture and Languages
University of Kent at Canterbury

The Cathedral Libraries Catalogue was a project organised by the Bibliographical Society.

Volume One of the Catalogue (Books printed in the British Isles and British America and English books printed elsewhere) was published in 1984.

Volume Two (Continental books to 1700) was published in 1998.


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The Cathedral Libraries Catalogue saw its origins in 1943 when the Bibliographical Society, with support from the Pilgrim’s Trust, employed Miss Margaret Hands to prepare entries for the proposed Catalogue. The first work was done at Worcester Cathedral in March 1944. The subsequent history of the project is told in the Introduction to Volume One of the Catalogue which was published in 1984 and was updated in the Introduction to Volume Two.

Volume One gave a summary listing of all the English-printed and English-language books in the English and Welsh Cathedral libraries printed before 1701, about 26,000 in total, arranged by STC and Wing entry numbers.

Volume Two is a full-scale catalogue of all the books printed outside Great Britain before 1701. There are nearly 26,000 entries, each giving a long short-title entry with author, title, imprint, notes and locations, with page and/or signature collations where available. The data have been stored as MARC records and the typesetting has been done by specially written software which generates cross-reference entries and an Adams-style sequence number for reference. There is a full index of printers, publishers and printing towns, which will be especially valuable for the seventeenth-century books where these essential research tools are still largely lacking.

The popular misconception that Cathedral Libraries contain only theology is forcibly refuted by this catalogue. Theology is of course present: in fact, the catalogue gives a full picture of the range of orthodox and dissident opinion in religion from the late Middles Ages, through the Reformation and Counter Reformation and on into the seventeenth-century controversies presaging the Enlightenment. The same full chronological panorama can be seen for many other fields too: law, history, geography, classical studies, oriental studies, literary and popular texts in all the major and many of the minor languages of Europe and beyond. The entries under Bible and Liturgies show the immense range of materials in these two areas collected by the dignitaries of our Cathedrals in the early modern period.

The Printers Index shows the range of materials represented for the printing historian, from major figures such as Aldus Manutius, the Estienne family and Christophe Plantin to the minor jobbing printers of small provincial towns, and from major centres such as Venice, Antwerp and Amsterdam to the small university towns of North Germany and the Baltic whose theses are represented in hundreds in the Catalogue.

David Shaw
2009, revised 2017