The Medieval Library,
Page 3 of 11
Part of a Bookcase at Cesna.
would see those among them not too weak to enjoy reading having the use of books under privileges of use not granted to the able-bodied.
Passing from the infirmary around the outside to the church again, the hospitaler would point out the spot, where, between the apse and the prior's house, the little separate library building stood before the new cloister was built on to provide, among other things. Ampler accommodation for the overcrowded library. Entering the church, the visitor would be shown the arched closets, looking like shuttered windows cut into he wall of the apse on either side. One of these cupboards was the library of the church in the long-ago day of small things, when only a part of the church itself and very little of the convent had been built, but at this time, it is used only for the sacred vessels. Then his guide would take him to the little alcove between altar and sacristy where the ponderous service-books are still kept, as they were when first removed with the other books from the cupboard in the apse, and in the same wooden cupboards, presses, or “almeries.” Only the service books would be now here, the others having been long ago removed to various points.
Passing to the cloisters the visitor would find the, fairly studded with collections of books. Beginning at the church door and extending along the side of the church is a long series of upright wooden presses, like those inside the church in substance (though of later pattern), and likewise filled with books. These cupboards are fastened to the stone wall, and at the same time held several inches away from it, for the sake of dryness, by iron clamps. Here books were kept in the first overflow from the church itself, before the little outside building was built, and here a large section of the most used books were still kept where the remainder were moved to other quarters. In this convent, it being among the wealthiest, these cases, instead of being exposed to the weather as in many cloisters, would be protected from the elements by the glazing in of the arches along this walk of the cloister with triple windows in order to provide curious little private studies called carols. These diminutive closets are built three in each arch, one for each division of the window, each tiny study having its own desk and lattice door, through which a superior may note, if he desires, whether the reader is working or idling. The desk and seat leave barely enough room for a man and his book.
The hospitaler having times the hour so as to reach the refectory while the monks are at their meal, the few monks who were reading before dinner would be leaving their carols and passing down the side corridors to the refectory on the opposite side of the court.