Treasures of the British Library

Monday to SundayFREE
Art of the Book display case (credit: Tony Antoniou)

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

The Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery hosts more than 200 beautiful and fascinating items: magnificent 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. Here are just a few of the objects you can see:

  • Gutenberg's Bible of 1455
  • Magna Carta
  • Codex Sinaiticus
  • Leonardo da Vinci's notebook
  • Handel's Messiah - in the composer's hand
  • Celestial globe, 110cm across
  • Handwritten lyrics by the Beatles

Imagining Don Quixote

Until 22 May 2016

Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote is one of the world’s most frequently illustrated books. The ever-changing style of illustration reflects different ways in which the novel has been seen over time and according to place. Taking four key episodes, this exhibition explores how they have been imagined from the 17th century to the present, from early printed editions to the graphic novel. Key items include editions by Gustave Doré and Salvador Dalí and sketches by Terry Gilliam for his original Don Quixote film project.

Don Quixote exhibition display – Credit: Tony Antoniou


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

Inside the Treasures Gallery at the British Library (credit: Tony Antoniou)


Name: Treasures of the British Library
Where: The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: Monday to Sunday
Opening times and visitor information
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546