Graeco-Roman antiquity, through the middle associated with the 2nd millennium BC to the end associated with the 6th century AD.

Graeco-Roman antiquity, through the middle associated with the 2nd millennium BC to the end associated with the 6th century AD.

Medieval and early modern Britain

British historical and literary manuscripts, 600–1600

Modern British history

British history from 1600 for this

Contemporary Britain

Collections reflecting contemporary society that is british culture

Literature and drama

Collections relating to English literature and British theatre

The British Library collection of maps, plans and views is among the largest in the global world, numbering some 4.5 million

The British Library has a world-famous number of music

Arts and humanities

Collections for the study of history, culture and society

Social sciences

Research resources on politics, economics, law, sociology along with other subjects.

Digital scholarship

Undertake innovative research with our digital collections and data

Law and legal studies

Historical and current resources for the analysis of law, legislation and society

Family history

Primary sources and reference material for family genealogy and history research

Manuscripts Reading Room

The Manuscripts Reading Room is the enquiry point for the Library’s western language manuscript collections (i.e. written by hand, not printed). The collection includes literary, historical manuscripts and papers that are private.

  • Find informative data on the shelves about the Library’s collection that is british of manuscripts and those held elsewhere
  • Access online databases and electronic journals and books associated with archives and manuscripts
  • Order collection items into the Reading Room via our Explore Archives & Manuscripts Catalogue

A few of our manuscripts may necessitate a Letter of Introduction, or could have other Access Conditions.

You can expect free Discovery and 1-2-1 Sessions to assist you make the use that is best of the Library’s collections.

For enquiries, please contact the Manuscripts Reference Team

Blog posts

The Theatre Censors Part 2: William Bodham Donne

William Bodham Donne became Examiner of Plays in 1857. He officially assumed the role after the loss of John Mitchell Kemble, but Donne had already been examining plays on his behalf since 1849. Donne was aimed at his job and.

James Knight’s “History of Jamaica”

We are delighted to share this web site by Jamie Gemmell. Jamie is a third year undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh and was awarded a Carnegie Vacation Scholarship to produce a partial digital edition buy essay of James Knight’s “History of Jamaica”.

New Anglo-Saxon acquisition on display

Earlier this current year, the British Library was delighted to get a leaf of an Anglo-Saxon benedictional (a site book employed by a bishop). At that time we stated that, despite its fragmentary nature, this manuscript was of good significance for.

Writing Wyatt

Have you ever wondered how a 16th-century poet gathered their works together? A writer with an eye to posterity could have followed the exemplory instance of Sir Thomas Wyatt (c. 1503–1542), poet, ambassador and rumoured lover of Anne Boleyn. In the.

Case studies

Exploring how the Anglo-Saxons used manuscripts to see Rome from afar.

Examining the working life of a twentieth-century scientist through the archive of John Maynard Smith.

AHRC Innovation Placement Fellow

Investigating constructions of identity into the works and archive regarding the writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

The British Library houses one of many world’s greatest collections of illuminated manuscripts, and Janet Backhouse has drawn on this rich resource to make an array of outstanding examples that span over 800 years of medieval book production.


a brief history of this written book in 100 Books (hardback)

From inscriptions on tombs into the first writings on papyrus; from scrolls to your first bound codex books in Roman times.

Codex Sinaiticus: New Perspectives in the Ancient Biblical Manuscript

Codex Sinaiticus the most important books in the entire world.