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Bishop Cosin’s Library

Durham

Society , Intellectual life

The collection of Bishop Cosin, one of the best of the 17th century, is still housed in its purpose built building on Palace Green at the heart of Durham City. It is considered to be the first public lending library in the North East of England.

Appointed Bishop of Durham by Charles II, a position that held considerable power, he embarked on major construction and restoration projects, including the building of his library in 1669. A quirk of the library is the portraits above the bookcases, which provide an easy way to organise the collection. The works of an author would be on the shelves underneath his portrait.

On the establishment of Durham University in 1833, a gallery was constructed within Cosin’s Library to house the university’s books.

Today it is still a library which can be consulted by members of the public and the University is now the sole statutory Trustee. The library and its collections were Designated as of national and international significance in 2005.

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