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St Paul's welcoming public to use restored 18th Century library

by Premier Journalist

Staff at St Paul's Cathedral are hoping use a newly refurbished library to help drive the church forward by reconnecting it to its history.

The libraries thirteen and a half thousand items had been stored in an RAF base for preservation purposes, before being returned to the shelves this week.

It's collection is comprised of an eclectic variety of church history, theology and literature, collected by Wren from donors including his Bishop of London, Henry Compton.

Restoration has been completed after £800,000 of donations in five years.  

The library was previously restored in 1710, masterminded by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London's destruction.

Prior to the restoration, the only significant modifications of the space had been to install electrical lighting in 1902 and a heating system shortly after.

The Library shelves had not been emptied since the Second World War, when their contents were transported to Wales for safe-keeping during the Blitz.

Before any work could start, the temperature and humidity in the room were monitored for a number of years, and the books and manuscripts were moved off-site, so the architecture could be assessed.

The humidity of the library I constantly monitored and controlled by humidistats controlled heating system, in order to maintain the books.

New display cases and desks for readers have been installed, as well as translucent window blinds that defend the books from UV light, whilst allowing visitors to still see the architecture of the windows.

Chief Librarian Anna James told Premier that the church can gain a huge amount by immersing themselves in its history, which she hopes the library can contribute to.

"I feel quite strongly that historical collections still have a current purpose that the history of the Church is the history of the church now rather than just a thing that happened in the past and that we can build on the knowledge and the information that was on the faith of people before us.

"Sometimes I think the church thinks it's inventing something new, when actually it's built could get there much more quickly if it were willing to build on and look at things that happened in the past because as a particular book is quite well known, says there is nothing new under the sun."

The collection includes a first edition copy of the Tyndale New Testament, the first ever English translation printed, as well as Psalm commentaries dating back to 1313.

"Now that it's looking as it does," said Head of Collections at the Cathedral Simon Carter, "we can show what we've got, as we have our display case, so we can do exhibitions, which will bring more of the content to the books to people not so they're not just sitting on the shelves but can actually be enjoyed and people can understand the content better.

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