A library in the Middle Ages needed its own security system. In 1686 when this one, the Chained Library at Wimborne Minster, was founded it was one of the first public libraries. Books in those days were very precious so chains were used to make sure they didn't stray too far from the shelf.
The chains are usually attached from a metal rod on the shelf to the edge of the book's cover as you can see in this postcard. Attaching to the spine is likely to cause too much damage to the book and the chain is liable to become tangled. This means though, that the books are usually shelved with their spines facing the wall. You have to suppose that there were few enough books that anyone wanting to use them would know where to find what they wanted.
The library is still open to the public, staffed by volunteers.
Wimborne Minster is the parish church for Wimborne in Dorset, in the south of England. It has been in existence for 1300 years. The staircase to the the library, though, is a mere 600 years old.
A post for Sepia Saturday. A click on the button will take you to the blog.