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History of Palace Green Library

Bishop Cosin's Library

From its foundation in the 17th Century by Bishop John Cosin, to offering world-class exhibition facilities today, Palace Green Library is certainly ‘shaped by the past, creating the future’.

Palace Green Library timeline

1669 Bishop John Cosin (1595-1672) founds an episcopal library on Palace Green, the first public lending library in the North East of England. The magnificent Cosin’s Library collection includes medieval manuscripts and early printed books.

1832 The University of Durham is established.

1833 Durham University Library is established on the Palace Green site, with a foundation collection of 160 volumes donated by William van Mildert, the last Prince Bishop of Durham.

1834 In order to house the original stock of the University Library, William van Mildert constructs a gallery within Cosin’s Library.

1850s During the 1850s, Dr Martin Joseph Routh, Bishop Edward Maltby and Dr Thomas Mastermann Winterbottom donate major collections to the Library. To house its growing collection, the Library is extended to occupy the upper two floors of the Exchequer Building, the former Bishoprick Law Courts on Palace Green that date from 1450.

1937 Cosin’s Library comes into the University’s sole trusteeship, although it was used by members of the University from early in the University's history.

1957 The Sudan Archive, which includes documents and official papers from the Anglo-Egyptian condominium, is set up a year after Sudan achieves independence.

1958 The Bamburgh Library, collected by the Sharp family between the 17th and 18th centuries, is deposited with Durham University Library.

1966 An extension to Palace Green Library provides a large reading room and a new stack for the University Library.

1983 The redesigned and extended Science Library (now the Bill Bryson Library) becomes the main University Library. Palace Green Library houses the Law and Music collections, as well as archival and special collections.

2005 Cosin’s Library and the Sudan Archive are ‘designated’ by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as having outstanding national and international significance.

2007 Durham University Library receives an Award for Care of Collections from the Institute of Conservation for the North East Collections Care Scheme.

2011 The Wolfson Gallery opens at Palace Green Library, which refocuses on Special Collections as the modern Law and Music collections are transferred to the Bill Bryson Library.

2012 A new reception area, shop and the Dunelm Gallery open. A major conservation project to restore Cosin’s Library is completed.

2013 The Lindisfarne Gospels are displayed at Palace Green Library.

2014 Courtyard Café and Learning Centre open.

2015 Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt at Palace Green Library.

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