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Chetham's Library

Visit this well-preserved medieval building and see books that have been read by kings, queens and political revolutionaries.

At Cheltham’s Library see ancient books, literary treasures and the place where The Communist Manifesto was written.

Visit the oldest library in the United Kingdom and walk through cavernous rooms that contain floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with leather and vellum-bound books. There are more than 100,000 printed volumes, of which over half were published before 1851. The collections also include 16th- and 17th-century periodicals, medieval manuscripts and theater programs.

Among the library’s most famous holdings are King Henry VIII’s copy of the works of St. Prosper of Aquitaine and a first edition of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica.

Step inside the grand Reading Room with its 17th-century wooden furniture. Sit at the desk in the alcove where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels planned and wrote The Communist Manifesto. Look above the fireplace at the only contemporary portrait of the library’s founder, Humphrey Chetham. The affluent Manchester textile merchant believed that curing ignorance would overcome poverty.

Go on a tour of other parts of the medieval building. See the Baronial Hall with its 17th-century stone floor and open timber roof. Examine the ornate plasterwork of the Audit Room. For details about accessing these rooms, visit the library’s official website.

Chetham’s Library was founded in 1653 and is housed in a pink sandstone manor building that dates back to 1421. The library is free to enter, although a donation is suggested. It is open every weekday, except on public holidays and between Christmas and New Year. The library strongly advises anyone who wants to visit to make an appointment. If you want to read any of the books, your appointment should be made at least one working day before your intended visit. 

Situated in Manchester city center, the library is well served by public transport and is a short walk from Victoria train station. On-site parking is only available to holders of disabled parking permits. There is a multistory car park in the nearby Manchester Evening News Arena.


Guide to Exploring around Chetham's Library


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