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July 2012 Item of the Month

A Quaker book, confiscated, 1664.

Over the last two years, the stunning library founded by Bishop Cosin has been painstakingly restored as part of a major conservation project. It will open for viewing from summer 2012. To celebrate this event, a new exhibition outlining Cosin's remarkable achievements will be shown in Palace Green Library's new Dunelm Gallery (30 June-4 November).

Cosin was a prominent figure in the seventeenth century; an ally of King Charles I, he was exiled during the Civil War. After the restoration of the monarchy, he was appointed Bishop of Durham by Charles II, a position that held considerable power.

In Durham he embarked on major construction and restoration projects, including the building of his library on Palace Green, founded in 1669. As a lifelong book-collector, books from Cosin's collection are still housed in his library on Palace Green.

Confiscated from a Northumberland Quaker group in 1664 following the break-up of a meeting in the house of John Wastall, this collection of fifteen tracts by John Perrot (d.1655) found its way into Cosin’s hands, and a few years later its final home on a shelf in his new library. It’s likely the unlucky owner (probably not Wastall, as his wife claimed, but a member of the Collinge family) never followed up Swinburne’s disingenuous advice that he should ride to Durham and try and reclaim it. While no friend to the Quakers, Cosin was not averse to commissioning the Quaker stonemason John Langstaffe to work on … his library.

The exhibition celebrates Cosin's life and achievements through the difficult years of the English Civil War and into the Restoration period when as Bishop of Durham the changes he made to the city can still be seen over three hundred years later.

Every month we showcase here an item from our Heritage Collections.