The Library & Archives date back to 1100, since then many thousands of manuscripts, books and articles have been accumulated.
The Library possesses two hundred and twenty-nine manuscripts ranging in date from the eighth- to the sixteenth-centuries. They include books from the Cathedral’s medieval library but also those from other collections dispersed after the Reformation in the sixteenth-century.
These works are chiefly theological in nature with writings by the church Fathers and commentaries on Holy Scripture. This collection includes the Hereford Gospels, a Wycliffite Bible and the Hereford Breviary, the only surviving copy of this medieval liturgy with musical notation.
A catalogue of these manuscripts is available in published form: Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Hereford Cathedral Library by R.A.B. Mynors and R.M. Thomson, (Cambridge, 1993)
The Chained Library has about 1500 books which date from the late fifteenth- to the early nineteenth-centuries. Fifty-six of them are incunabula, i.e. books printed before 1500. They are chiefly concerned with theology, biblical studies, law and church history.
There are a large number of printed books that are not chained. It includes: the library of the Vicars Choral at Hereford cathedral with 582 volumes chiefly from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries, and added to the Cathedral Library when the college was dissolved in 1937; around 150 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century volumes from the Jesuit Library at Cwm; 242 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century volumes from the theological portion of Stoke Edith House, which was the gift of Paul Foley in 1925.
Other collections include:
Music part-books, both manuscript and printed, used by the organists and choirs at Hereford Cathedral from the late seventeenth- to the nineteenth-centuries.
The Chained Library of All Saints’ Church, bequeathed to that church by Dr William Brewster in 1715. It was sold in 1995 and purchased for the Mappa Mundi Trust. It contains the theological part of Brewster’s Library including works on travel, literature and science.
The Library of Lady Hawkins School at Kington: it was deposited by the Governors of the School in 1978. It has around 260 volumes printed between 1494-1782, chiefly theology with some science, classics, grammar and geography.
The Cathedral Library is still collecting books today. It holds about 9,000 items printed after 1850 and is the largest working ecclesiastical library in the diocese. Books may be used for reference, can be borrowed, and membership is free. There are biblical commentaries, works on church history, church arts and architecture, comparative religion and biography.
There are other reference works including a section on the history of the cathedral, city and diocese which is often used by researchers working on the Archives.