Treasures of the British Library

Treasures of the British Library permanent exhibition

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The world's most beautiful and influential books and documents, from Magna Carta and Gutenberg's Bible to the Beatles

The Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery hosts more than 200 beautiful and fascinating items: magificent hand-painted books from many faiths, maps and views, early printed books, literary, historical, scientific and musical works from over the centuries and around the world. Half of the items now on display have not been seen by the public for many years.

Here are just a few of the things you can see:

  • Magna Carta
  • Gutenberg's Bible of 1455
  • The Lindisfarne Gospels
  • Beowulf - the unique manuscript
  • Leonardo da Vinci's notebook
  • Shakespeare's First Folio
  • Diamond Sutra - the world's earliest dated printed book
  • Codex Sinaiticus - the earliest complete copy of the New Testament
  • Handel's Messiah - in the composer's hand
  • Magnificent painted books, such as the Luttrell Psalter
  • Celestial globe, 110cm across

Collecting the Renaissance: the Aldine Press 1494–1598

Fri 31 Oct 2014 – Sun 25 Jan 2015

Free, in the Treasures Gallery

In the 1490s the still new-fangled business of printing and publishing was revolutionised by Aldus Manutius (1451–1515), whose family-run press changed the way books were edited, marketed and read. Marking the 500th anniversary of his death, this small display includes some of the most remarkable and beautiful copies in the British Library’s extensive Aldine collection and shows how his editions were avidly sought after and prized by readers, scholars and book collectors down the centuries.

Treasures of the British Library permanent exhibition

What our visitors say on TripAdvisor:

We thought the British Library was just a traditional library with the occasional exhibition, but had a little time to spend before catching our train at Euston. We were amazed at the permanent display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, and astonished to see originals of the Magna Carta, fascinating early books of all types and significant items right up to the present day. There was well written detail and historical context. Not to be missed!

The highlight for us was the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. It houses treasures such as the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, sacred texts from so many religions, all kinds of illustrated manuscripts, early books, music scores. It is all here, at the highest level one could dream of...

Everything from Magna Carta, Korans and Books of Hours and Buddhist & Hindu texts. Musical materials range from Handel to the Beatles including original scores written in the hand of the maestros themselves. Also scientific works - Darwin, Fleming etc. Literature from Dickens, Austen etc. All for free...

Wow! Just an amazing collecting for any book lover to see. From bibles written in 400AD to “the” Alice in Wonderland (the handwritten original that was given to “Alice” the inspiration for the story), to the original lyrics to the Beatles' “Help” as they were scratched out on scrap paper...

There are original sketches and notes of Leonardo da Vinci, works by Shakespeare, song sheets produced by Handel, Mozart and the Beatles and original handwritten letters from the Royal family and other important historical figures...

Note: items are taken off display on a regular basis for conservation reasons and may also be lent to other institutions for exhibition. If you wish to be sure that a particular item is on display, please check in advance. Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7332

Treasures of the British Library permanent exhibition

Details

Name: Treasures of the British Library
Where: Show map      How to get to the Library
When: Permanent
Opening times and visitor information
Price:Free
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
boxoffice@bl.uk