History of Lambeth Palace Library

Lambeth Palace Library is the historic library and record office of the Archbishops of Canterbury and the principal repository of the documentary history of the Church of England. Its collections have been freely available for research since 1610.

The records held here date from the 9th century to the present day, and their broad scope reflects the office of Archbishop as head of the Province of Canterbury, his national and international roles in leading the Church of England and the Anglican Communion worldwide, and the wealth and power of Archbishops in past centuries which enabled them to collect books and manuscripts of the highest quality and significance.

James I described the Library as ‘a monument of fame' in his kingdom. Peter the Great, who visited in 1698, is recorded as saying that nothing in England astonished him as much as Lambeth Palace Library; he had never thought there were so many books in all the world.

In 1996 Lambeth Palace Library took into its care all the early collections of Sion College, the historic library of the City of London clergy, which comprise manuscripts, pre-1850 printed books, and pamphlets. Its collection complements that of Lambeth with a key focus on the Church, but a rich diversity of other subject material.