This year marks the 600th anniversary of the re-founding of York’s Minster Library, when in 1414 the cathedral’s treasurer, John Neuton, bequeathed his book collection.
There had been a library connected to York Minster before: Alcuin is well-known for his part in building up the cathedral’s library in the eighth century. However, this library was destroyed when the Danes sacked the city in the late ninth century.
|YM MS.XVI.P8 fo. 1r|
A page from one of Neuton's manuscripts, still held in the Minster today.
Click to enlarge image.
Neuton's bequest stimulated the creation of a library building to hold the cathedral’s books. The original medieval library building, completed just a few years after Neuton's bequest, was attached to the south transept, above what is now the gift shop. The ground floor was used for the Minster school. In the nineteenth century the library was moved to the Old Palace, where it remains today and the space is now used for choir practice.
To mark this anniversary, an online resource is being created, covering Neuton’s life and his bequest, and the wider context of late medieval York and the Minster. There will be contributions from various academics; images of the few remaining manuscripts that belonged to Neuton; and the website will aim to put Neuton and his bequest in context of the longer-term history of the Minster Library. Some very interesting and cutting edge research has already come out of the project. In a great piece of detective work, Sarah Brown, head of the York Glaziers Trust, has identified where in the Minster she believes Neuton was buried.
The website will be an excellent opportunity to view images of medieval manuscripts, which are normally not that accessible for the wider public, and to learn more about the long and rich history of the Minster Library.
John Neuton and the re-foundation of the Minster Library featured in the Cathedral Libraries and Archives in the British Isles Conference in July. For more information visit: