Wren Library

The Wren Library is the library of Trinity College in Cambridge. It was designed by Christopher Wren in 1676 and completed in 1695.

View of the Wren Library across Nevile's Court
View of the rear facade from the river Cam
The Wren Library (foreground) and University Library (background) viewed from St John's College chapel tower
The interior of the library, showing the limewood carvings by Grinling Gibbons


The library is a single large room built over an open colonnade on the ground floor of Nevile's Court. The floor of the library proper within the upper storey lies several feet below the external division between the two storeys, reconciling the demands of use with the harmony of architectural proportion. It is credited as being one of the first libraries to be built with large windows to give comfortable light levels to aid readers.

The book stacks are arranged in rows perpendicular to the walls under the intervals between the windows. At the end of each stack is a fine limewood carving by Grinling Gibbons, and above these are plaster cast busts of notable writers through the ages. Other marble busts standing on plinths depict notable members of the college and are mostly carved by Louis-François Roubiliac. A later addition is a full size statue of Lord Byron carved by Bertel Thorvaldsen, originally offered to Westminster Abbey for inclusion in Poets' Corner, but refused due to the poet's reputation for immorality.[1]

On the east balustrade of the library's roof are four statues by Gabriel Cibber representing Divinity, Law, Physic (medicine), and Mathematics.[2]

Cloisters beneath main library room. Note ceiling level at springing point of exterior arches rather than at their peak.

As part of the complex of buildings surrounding Nevile's Court, Great Court and New Court, the library is a Grade I listed building.[3]

The other library designed by Wren is Lincoln Cathedral Library.

Notable booksEdit

The library contains many notable rare books and manuscripts, many bequeathed by past members of the college.

Included in the collection are

Digitisation programmeEdit

In early 2014 the library began a major programme of digitisation. To date, over 160 of the 1250 medieval manuscripts owned by the College have been digitised and are freely available to read online.[12] A link to the list of digitised manuscripts can be found in the external links below.


The library is open to the public,[13][14] but opening times are limited.[15] There is no admission charge for the Wren Library.


  1. ^ The Making of the Wren Library: Trinity College, Cambridge
  2. ^ Fürst, V., 1956, The architecture of Sir Christopher Wren
  3. ^ Historic England. "Trinity College, the Buildings Surrounding Great Court, Nevile's Court and New Court, and Including King's Hostel (1106371)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  4. ^ Newton, Isaac. "Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Newton's personally annotated 1st edition)".
  5. ^ Isaac Newton's Notebook
  6. ^ Pauline epistles Epistles of St Paul
  7. ^ 13th-century Anglo-Norman Trinity Apocalypse
  8. ^ The Western manuscripts in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge by M.R. James, Cambridge University Press, 1900, 3 vols.
  9. ^ Frommer's London 2013 By Donald Strachan
  10. ^ Autograph of Milton
  11. ^ The Vision of Piers Plowman Online Manuscript
  12. ^ Online Catalogue of the James Manuscripts
  13. ^ Archives made easy Information
  14. ^ Visit Cambridge Information
  15. ^ Wren Library Opening Times

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 52°12′25.56″N 0°6′53.64″E / 52.2071000°N 0.1149000°E / 52.2071000; 0.1149000