The present Library, begun after the foundation of the Abbey as a collegiate church in 1560, has been housed in part of the former monastic dormitory since 1591. In 1623 Dean John Williams furnished the library with book presses (at his own expense) and with some 2,000 volumes. Thereafter the collections grew by gift, bequest and purchase throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Library now holds around 14,000 pre-1801 printed books, about 60 manuscripts (mostly medieval) and a collection of printed and manuscript music. In addition there is an extensive collection of printed books and articles on the history of Westminster Abbey, St Margaret’s Church, coronations and related topics.
For a more detailed account of the Library and its holdings see A Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, edited B.C. Bloomfield, 2nd edition (London: Library Association Publishing: 1997). The following publications deal with particular aspects of the Library’s collections:
J. Armitage Robinson and Montague Rhodes James, The Manuscripts of Westminster Abbey (Cambridge University Press: 1909)
N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British Libraries, vol.I (Oxford, 1969)
N.R. Ker, Medieval Libraries of Great Britain: a list of surviving books, 2nd edition (London: Royal Historical Society: 1964) [Supplement, ed. Andrew G. Watson, 1987]
Howard M. Nixon, British Bookbindings presented by Kenneth H. Oldaker to the Chapter Library of Westminster Abbey (London: Maggs Bros : 1982)
FOR SALE: Copies of the Oldaker catalogue, hardback 159pp, with three colour plates and black and white illustrations of all bindings. Prices including postage: UK = 7 pounds; Europe =11 GB pounds; US & Canada = 16 GB pounds; Australia & New Zealand = 17 GB pounds.
UK cheques can be made payable to "The Dean and Chapter of Westminster" and sent to Westminster Abbey Library, The Cloisters, London SW1P 3PA.
Visa/Mastercard credit card payments cannot be made by e-mail. To give your details phone Accounts on +44 (0)20 7654 4874 or fax (0)20 7654 4869 and tell them payment is for the catalogue and they will notify the Library of your postal address.
Westminster Abbey Library: Early Printed and Manuscript Music.
Westminster Abbey Library: Early Manuscripts collection (Library Mss.2-45).
These microfilms are distributed by World Microfilms www.microworld.uk.com Contact them direct for prices for the collections and for individual reels within the collections.