The Cathedral Libraries and Archives of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland constitute one of the most remarkable and least explored treasures in the world of books and letters. They contain beautiful manuscripts produced before the Reformation, many thousands of copies of early printed books (including rare and even unique items), and archives of institutional and personal papers of national significance, stretching from the Middle Ages to the present. While predictably strong in scriptural, liturgical, devotional, and theological texts (manuscript and printed), these collections also preserve many scientific, literary and even irreligious texts.

All of the cathedrals of Britain and Ireland have at one time or another possessed their own collections, from the famous medieval foundations of Canterbury, York, Durham, Lincoln, or Winchester, to the newer dioceses of Manchester or Guildford. Some collections, such as Peterborough and Ely, have come to be looked after elsewhere, and others remain where they have been for centuries. There is also the special case of Lambeth Palace Library, the historic Library of the Archbishops of Canterbury, which serves as the official Library and Record Office for the history of the Church of England. Cathedrals in the Church of Wales, the Church of Scotland, and the Church of Ireland, have similarly intricate histories.

Cathedral libraries and archives contain almost unfathomable riches for research. However, knowledge of them is often quite restricted and access to individual collections can be variable, while common ground between collections has only begun to be mapped and explored. For their part, the Libraries and Archives often face uncertain funding and public misunderstanding.

The Cathedral Libraries and Archives Association serves within the Church of England to promote the interests of the libraries and provide them with a collective voice. CLAN is designed to work alongside CLAA in facilitating and promoting research and in acting as an interface between academic communities, church bodies and the wider public. Opportunities for collaboration include: exhibitions; digital resources; educational outreach; large and small research grant bids; collaborative doctoral awards and partnerships in teaching.

We invite your participation and welcome your ideas.

Professors Brian Cummings and Bill Sherman

Department of English & Related Literature

University of York