The Senior Library is Lincoln’s collection of early printed books and manuscripts, a collection that dates back to the College’s foundation in 1427. The books themselves are rather hidden away behind an oak door at the east end of what must be the College’s most spectacular building, the converted church of All Saints on Turl Street. While their current location dates back only to 1975, when the Library was moved to All Saints, the books are still shelved in the elegant, if not always practical, presses bought in 1739 with money from Sir Nathaniel Lloyd’s gift to the College (he famously disapproved of how the College had spent his money and stipulated in 3 consecutive wills that this was why he would give no more).
The collection – over 14,000 early printed books and pamphlets – spans all periods of book production from the 15th century onwards. The oldest books are our 49 incunables (listed on the MEI database), many the gift of Edmund Audley, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1518. The library has continued to grow, largely as a result of a number of donations (recorded in our 18th century donors book), and now includes a fine collection of Hebraica and Judaica, seventy-seven volumes of 17th century English pamphlets, and the Wesley Collection of works relating to John Wesley and the early history of Methodism.
The work of cataloguing the Senior Library began in 2014 and is now well underway, with records for over 4,000 books available on SOLO, the Oxford University online catalogue. This project has enabled us to gather information about the provenance of the books from evidence such as bindings, inscriptions and annotations, valuable information about previous readers and owners, whether part of the Lincoln community or otherwise, which can help us understand how the books have made their way to the Senior Library. The cataloguing will enable new readers and researchers to use the Senior Library and we encourage them to do so. To learn more about the Senior Library or arrange a visit please contact the Lincoln Assistant Librarian, Miss Lucy Matheson.