The Last of the Great Chained Libraries

medievalfragments

By Jenny Weston

On a beautiful sunny day last week, the Turning Over a New Leaf project team decided to take a day off from the office to visit a spectacular chained library in the small town of Zutphen (located in the eastern part of the Netherlands). Built in 1564 as part of the church of St Walburga, it is one of only five chained libraries in the world that survive ‘intact’—that is, complete with the original books, chains, rods, and furniture.

Needless to say, it was a rather surreal moment for all of us to step into the little room to see the dark-wood lecterns, upon which were placed (in neat rows, side-by-side) beautiful 15th- and 16th-century books, secured in place by metal chains.

Looking closer, it is possible to see just how the chained-library system works. Each book is fitted with a metal clasp, usually on the back cover…

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