Treasures of the British Library

Monday to SundayFREE
Treasures of the British Library permanent exhibition

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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
  • The Lindisfarne Gospels
  • Beowulf - the unique manuscript in Old English
  • Leonardo da Vinci's notebook
  • Shakespeare's First Folio
  • Diamond Sutra - the world's earliest dated printed book
  • Handel's Messiah - in the composer's hand
  • Celestial globe, 110cm across
  • Handwritten lyrics by the Beatles

Beyond Paper: 3000 Years of Chinese Writing

Until 17 January 2016

The earliest examples of Chinese writing date from over 3000 years ago, inscribed on bones used in divination rituals. In this small display, ‘oracle bones’ are exhibited alongside Chinese manuscripts written on other materials including wood, silk and paper. Many of the rare objects on exhibition are being digitised in collaboration with Chinese institutions, applying new technologies to share some of the oldest known forms of written communication.

Beyond Paper exhibition

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

Treasures of the British Library permanent exhibition



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