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Power, Politics, and Preservation: John Cosin and his Library

Cosin’s Library interior. A wooden table in front of large wooden bookcases filled with historic books.

John Cosin was a man of piety, learning and strong opinions, who was at the centre of the political and religious controversies that dominated England in the seventeenth century. His beliefs and loyalty towards the King of England led to a twenty-year stay in Paris, where he became chaplain to the English court in exile. 

As Bishop of Durham after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, he dedicated the final years of his life to rebuilding the damage caused by decades of civil war. One of his greatest achievements was the library he built on Palace Green for the use of members of the local community. Now part of Durham University, the library is the earliest surviving public library in the North East of England. 

Using his books and surviving correspondence, in this exhibition we explore Cosin's eventful life and discover how he came to build his extraordinary library for the people of Durham.