York Minster exhibition reveals the Great Lost Eighth Century Library of Alcuin's York

posted 6 Mar 2011, 14:58 by Paul Brayford   [ updated 6 Mar 2011, 15:08 ]
From Culture24 4 March 2011

The city of York can boast many eminent incarnations, most famously its stints as a Roman and Viking town, but in the eighth century it owed its reputation as a European intellectual centre to its library and school.

Headed by the leading scholar Alcuin who went on the join the Carolingan Court of the Emperor Charlemagne, the school enjoyed the patronage of Archbishop Ecbert and was renowned as an important centre of ecclesiastical learning, science and the arts.

Although the history of the school, which today is known as St Peter’s, is well known as one of the oldest schools in the UK, the library that supported this great centre of scholarship has been lost – even to history. All trace of it and its manuscripts and books has disappeared.

Now a new exhibition organised by Dr Mary Garrison of the University of York, at York Minster Library reveals some of the clues that prove its existence.

The scholar Alcuin (middle), supports Raban Maur as he dedicates his work to Archbishop Otgar of Mainz (Right)© Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Wien

The Great Lost Library Of Alcuin’s York exhibition, Old Palace, Dean's Park, York, until April 15

From The Press  3 March 2011

THE mystery surrounding York’s famous lost library will be the focus of a new exhibition in the city.

In the eighth century, the library and school headed by the renowned scholar Alcuin meant York was respected across Europe, but all trace of the library has since disappeared.

Now, an exhibition called The Great Lost Library Of Alcuin’s York will be held at the Old Palace, in the grounds of Dean’s Park, the home of York Minster’s historic collections, to try to solve the mystery.

Its organiser Dr Mary Garrison, of theUniversity of York’s Department of History, said the library was probably either taken to mainland Europe, or destroyed in Viking attacks in 866 and 877AD.

She said: “The library has vanished. No books now existing can be proven to have come from it. But it was extraordinary. Students came from afar to study with Alcuin. The library was dispersed or destroyed, but the surviving information about its growth, use and disappearance make a fascinating and inspiring story.