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Library door with sign

Historic Cosin’s Library will be re-opening its doors to visitors on Wednesday 13 April. After being closed for several years, essential conservation work is now complete and the library and its collections are now more accessible and enjoyable than ever before.

In the heart of the Durham World Heritage Site

Ornate chairs in libraryBetween the grandeur of Durham Castle and the magnificence and splendour of Durham Cathedral, Cosin’s Library is a real hidden treasure, located at the heart of Durham’s World Heritage Site, within the beautiful Palace Green Library building. The library was built before 1669, commissioned by John Cosin, Bishop of Durham from 1660 to 1672, and the extensive book collection was developed over many years by Cosin and his successors.


The library is a very early example of wall-mounted bookcases in an English public library, allowing for a large clear space in the middle of the library room, perhaps encouraging conversation and debate rather than silent study. Before this, public libraries in England were built with college-style bookcases that came out into the room.

Above most of the bookcases are painted portraits of theologians, philosophers, historians and classical authors, which informed users about the subjects of the books shelved underneath. Painted by Jan Baptist van Eersel, an otherwise unknown Dutch painter, the portraits are based on illustrations from books still in the library.

Come and see for yourself!

Visitors in Cosin's LibraryWell worth a visit, the library will open to the public on Wednesday 13 April, when you will have the opportunity to visit the earliest surviving public library in Northeast England, discover the conservation work that has been done, speak to members of our team and experience this wonderful space for yourself.

Opening times are Wednesday to Sunday between 11am and 3pm, plus most Bank Holidays. Entry will be free, but booking is necessary to keep the number of people in the library at any one time to a comfortable level.

For more information about booking your visit and to learn more about the library and its collections click here