From the time of the Reformation, a series of donations have formed the core of the holdings now in the Cathedral Library. Find out more about these collections below.

The Howley-Harrison Collection

This is the largest individual collection in the Library, made up of approximately 16,000 books and pamphlets. It includes part of the working library of the Victorian Archbishop William Howley and the personal library of Benjamin Harrison, Howley’s personal curate and later Archdeacon of Maidstone, as well as books and pamphlets belonging to Harrison’s father and his friend, the abolitionist Sir Robert Harry Inglis, MP. The whole collection was given to the Dean & Chapter on Harrison’s death in 1887. Apart from fascinating texts on natural history, archaeology, travel and of course theology, there are tracts on the English Civil War and on slavery, fine examples of early English printing, and several fifteenth and sixteenth-century illuminated Books of Hours.

The Elham Collection


Preston Parish Library

The library of Preston-next-Wingham, Kent, still survives in its white-painted oak carrying case. It was given in 1710 ‘for the use of the vicars’ of Preston by the Trustees for Erecting Parochial Libraries. Some 41 of the original 67 volumes are still in existence with their own distinctive bookplate. An attached shelf-list records the original titles in the library.

Canterbury Catch Club

Founded in 1779, the Catch Club was one of the foremost social clubs in Canterbury. It continued until 1865, by which time its popularity was overtaken by that of the music hall. The members met in a local pub to sing catches (a type of round), glees, duets and solo songs. Vocal and orchestral music is deposited in the Cathedral Library as well as catalogues and a programme book from the 1820s. There are a few minute books from 1802 in the Cathedral Archives.

St Augustine’s Missionary College Antiquarian Books

There are 1,000 volumes in the Antiquarian section of the St. Augustine’s Missionary College library. The books represent the work of many English and Continental printers with many titles in Greek and Latin. The collection is particularly strong on Patristics, including, for example, editions of the writings of Saints Aquinas, Justinian, Cyril and Isidore of Pelusium. Enquiries about these books should also be addressed to the Cathedral Library.
Our holdings are catalogued on the web as part of the University of Kent’s online catalogue at
To allow for staffing contingencies, it is requested that one week’s notice is given for orders from this collection.

Other Significant Holdings

Other significant holdings include the books and manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon scholar William Somner (c. 1606-1669), books donated by Stephen Hunt, a local physician, in 1714, and the Coombe collection of early printed Bibles, given by Canon Thomas Coombe (d. 1822).


The Library holds substantial runs of the Gentleman’s Magazine, Annual Register and Edinburgh Magazine. A complete set of the Archaeologia Cantiana is available for consultation. The Library continues to subscribe to a number of current journal titles. Our holdings are catalogued on the web as part of the University of Kent’s online catalogue at