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Oldest book celebrated at Cathedral library 

The Norwich Cathedral’s library houses more than 8,000 historic books, with its oldest printed book set to celebrate its 550th year next month. Gudrun Warren, the Cathedral’s librarian, will be holding a special tea party on 2 February to mark the occasion. The book in question is a copy of Lactantius’s Divine Institutes, which was printed in Rome in 1474. The tea party will include a short talk about the book and its context, and will be open to all.

Lactantius, the author of Divine Institutes, lived from about 250 AD to about 325 AD. He was born in Africa and became a teacher of rhetoric, working for the Emperor Diocletian and later Emperor Constantine. In the wake of Christian persecution under Diocletian, Lactantius wrote a defense of Christianity called Divine Institutes. The book, written in Latin with occasional Greek references, comprises 258 leaves of paper and provides insight into printing trends from its time.

The book includes handwritten annotations by at least two of its readers over the centuries, but it remains a mystery as to how the book came to the Cathedral library. The library’s oldest printed catalog, dated 1819, contains the book, and it is assumed that the book came to the library around that time. The binding of the book, which is from the early 19th century, is in need of restoration and this work will be undertaken later this year. In addition to the tea party, there are plans for more events to mark the book’s 550th birthday.

The tea party, which will be held in the Cathedral library on 2 February, is open to all who are interested in learning more about this historic book. For those looking to attend, they can contact the Cathedral library by calling 01603 218443 or emailing [email protected]. This event will be the perfect opportunity to delve into the history and significance of this centuries-old text.

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