Housed in the West Wing of the Bishop’s Palace is a modern library and archive facility in which are preserved and made accessible the Dean & Chapter’s many thousands of books and documents, which span the 10th to 21st centuries.
‘Accredited Archive’ status was awarded in 2014 (and renewed in 2017), recognising that the Library and Archives continues to meet clearly defined national standards relating to management and resourcing; the care of its unique collections and what the service offers to its entire range of users.
The Library contains medieval manuscripts, early printed books and modern published texts on a remarkable range of subjects including local history, theology, medicine, science and many more.
The Archives contain unique original records documenting the history of the Cathedral and its Dean & Chapter including the buildings, people and former estates across Devon and Cornwall (and Bampton, Oxfordshire).
You can find out more about what is in our collections by searching our online catalogues.
Information for researchers
We offer an enquiry service where we will advise you on the sources we have to address your research topic, and we can carry out basic look-ups for you. For those who cannot visit in person we also offer a commissioned research service.
Research appointments to consult material from our collections are available Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm. A professional librarian or archivist will be on duty during your visit – supported by our volunteer team – who will provide help and advice, and produce material for you from the strong room.
Please contact us in advance to make an appointment as this gives us an opportunity to discuss your research needs before you arrive and enables us to manage space in the reading room. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee to accommodate your visit if you haven’t informed us in advance (though we will try).
A note about viewing the Exeter Book
The best-known volume in the Cathedral Library is the 10th-century manuscript known as the Exeter Book, a collection of poems (including riddles) in Old English which was owned by Leofric, the first Bishop of Exeter. So that people can have access to this extraordinary book and learn about it, we arrange sessions throughout the year when it is put on display – keep an eye on this website to find out the dates if you would like to join in one of these sessions. It is also important that this precious book is preserved for the future, so we keep it in controlled conditions for the rest of the time. The only exception to this policy is that we make it available to scholars whose research makes it necessary to work directly with the manuscript.