Updated: Mar 16, 2022
Finally this week we pulled off a visit that I’ve been angling for over the past several months!
We managed to book ourselves into a tour of Chetham’s Library.
Chetham’s Library was founded in 1653 and is the oldest surviving public library in Britain. The building that houses it is even older, built in 1421.
It was a pilgrimage to visit here for several reasons, not the least being my love of libraries and feeling like the library was my salvation when growing up. It was a magical place of endless treasure and a feast for my imagination.
Chetham’s Library has been in continuous use for over 350 years and contains more than 120,000 “printed items.” I won’t list the highlights of their remarkable collection, except to note that they are in possession of five books formerly owned by Dr. John Dee.
In 1595, Dee was appointed warden of Manchester’s collegiate church, now the Cathedral, during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. He was sixty-eight, and his reputation as a scholar and student of the occult was well established. His ten years in Manchester were not a happy time for him though: he got into debt, fell out with everyone, and eventually lost his wife and child to the plague. At that point he pulled up stakes and returned to his home in Mortlake where he lived out the remainder of his life (albeit still on the college payroll).
Books were not the only thing he left behind though.
They say he summoned the Devil in one of the library rooms, and this burn mark you see on the table in front of me was the mark of the Devil’s hoof! Eeeekkkk!
(Not because of the Devil bit—but because I’m touching a table that John Dee himself touched. Eeeeeekkkk!)
After our tour ended, we wandered over to Manchester Cathedral, which was likewise magnificent. Parts of it are said to be from the ninth century. Below, I’m standing in the quire that contains many fabulous carvings and misericords from the 16th century—including a kangaroo on the Bishop’s seat (from 1906, in honor of a Bishop from Melbourne).
It contained many other treasures, including a Stoller organ (directly behind me), angels on the rafters, and plenty of ancient stone carvings as well as delicious gargoyles hanging around outside. All that kept me pretty happy!
Until next time, ciao for now!
warmly, -Dr. Vicky Jo