View a Virtual Library

The medieval St Albans Abbey was famous as a place of learning. The monks who lived here produced high-quality manuscripts in the scriptorium, and by the late Middle Ages the Abbey had one of the largest and most important book collections of any Benedictine house in England. These included bibles and books on science, history, music and classics.

However, in December 1539 the Abbey was closed by Henry VIII's commissioners, and its treasures were either sold or taken away. The Abbey's extensive Library was dispersed and has not been reunited since. Its magnificent manuscripts now belong to other major libraries, and we are fortunate that many of these institutions have been digitising their collections to allow public access to them. 

The amazing work of digitisation has allowed us to explore these works online and see a snapshot of what the Abbey's collection would have looked like. Our Archives Team has been working on a matrix which allows people to search the list of digitised manuscripts and access these via the webpages of the holding institution. It is a work in progress! We will be continuing to look out for other digitised manuscripts which we can add to this document. 

Digital Manuscript Matrix

You can also find out more about the Abbey's historic collections in our new blog post

Please note that we are only able to view these manuscripts thanks to the great generosity of the holding institutions who have digitised them and made them publicly accessible. All manuscripts belong to their respective institutions as listed, and St Albans Cathedral holds no claim to ownership of those manuscripts once held by the Abbey and since dispersed, save the ones held in their own Archives. 

Medieval Libraries of Great Britain

You may also be interested in the following website (still under construction), which lists 153 manuscripts whose provenance is believed to show a connection with St Albans Abbey.  This project brings together two standard research tools for medieval libraries: Neil Ker’s Medieval Libraries of Great Britain and the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues.   

St Albans Manuscript List

Special thanks go to Ailsa Herbert and Richard O'Neill for their work researching and compiling this database.