Thirteen turned out to be a lucky number for that many members of the group, who had waited for a long time to get on this guided visit to Lichfield Cathedral Library. It was certainly worth the wait.
On arrival, we were led up a spiral staircase above the Chapter House into the Library, and there we could only marvel at the lovely room with its wooden vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows, although the floor covering immediately struck us a rather odd! What seemed to be a tiled floor, with a barely discernable fleur de lis pattern, actually turned out to be a warm, comfortable carpet. By a clever piece of technology, a picture had been taken of the original floor beneath and had been reproduced onto the surface of the carpet, thus losing none of its medieval feel.
Books, hundreds of years old, filled the beautiful wooden shelves, plaques either end of which marked the names of their donors. However, we had really come to see the extremely rare and weighty tomes that were waiting for us on large foam supports, filling a large table at the edge of the room.
We gathered around and our guide carefully went through a succession of books, beginning with one from the 1400s. There were beautiful handwritten and, later, printed manuscripts, bibles, books showing incredible woodcut prints and amazing maps of the 1500s. One book, thinner than most, entitled 'Orders of Charles I for the Regulation of the Princes Household' had been signed by Charles I on every page and it was awe inspiring to realise that he had actually handled it. Another, of particular interest, was an ancient History of Staffordshire.
As can be imagined, we would have liked to spend far more time there and be allowed to browse at leisure. Perhaps another time!
Photographs curtesy Eileen Donohoe, Keith and Janet Jordan