The Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral in England

Chaining books was the most widespread and effective security system in European libraries from the middle ages to the eighteenth century, and Hereford Cathedral’s seventeenth-century Chained Library is the largest to survive with all its chains, rods and locks intact.

A chain is attached at one end to the front cover of each book; the other end is slotted on to a rod running along the bottom of each shelf. The system allows a book to be taken from the shelf and read at the desk, but not to be removed from the bookcase.

The books are shelved with their foredges, rather than their spines, facing the reader; this allows the book to be lifted down and opened without needing to be turned around - thus avoiding tangling the chain.

{Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 }

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