Treasures of the British Library

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

For more information

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
  • Codex Sinaiticus
  • Leonardo da Vinci's notebook
  • Handel's Messiah - in the composer's hand
  • Celestial globe, 110cm across
  • Handwritten lyrics by the Beatles
  • Beowulf

You may find the Sir John Ritblat Gallery cooler and darker than other areas of the Library. The temperatures in the galleries are maintained at approximately 17-19 degrees centigrade and light levels may be reduced in order to preserve the treasures in our collection. This controlled environment protects any items that may fade, discolour, or be damaged in bright light or humid conditions.We recommend bringing an extra layer, especially in the summer months, when the outside temperature can feel considerably warmer. Please note that photography is not allowed in any of our exhibition spaces.


Wide Sargasso Sea: Jean Rhys, Jane Eyre and the Making of an Author

Until 8 January 2017

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and the bi-centenary of Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, the influential Victorian novel out of which Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea as both a prequel and a contemporary response. This exhibition explores the making of these two classic works of literature and the dynamics of literary celebrity past and present.

Wide Sargasso Sea: Jean Rhys, Jane Eyre and the Making of an Author

What our visitors say on TripAdvisor:

The first thing you encounter is pages from Leonardo DaVinci’s notebook. Not replicas, the actual original notes, handwritten by the man himself. This is just the start. There are Shakespeare sonnets and plays, handwritten sheet music from the likes of Bach, Handel and Elgar, and original drafts of works by Dickens, HG Wells and Jane Austen. I discovered Beatles lyrics written by John Lennon as well as letters from George III, and one of only four copies of the Magna Carta.

When you first walk in the free exhibit, you don't feel like it will take long to walk through. However, I was in there for well over 3 hours! Everything is clearly labeled, and there is a wide variety of subjects to view such as literature, music, religion (including Christianity, Hindi, Islam, Buddhism, etc.), historical documents, scientific documents, etc.

No matter what a person's interests, there is something in this room from which point the shape of human development and the course of history was changed forever. The collection is staggering and takes some absorbing. How humbling to see these works.

The name doesn't lie--this place holds some truly spectacular documents. Will appeal to enthusiasts of music (original scores by the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, and Handel, plus handwritten Beatles lyrics), history (Magna Carta, letters from Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, a Gutenberg bible), literature (Shakespeare, Thomas More's Utopia, Beowulf, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens) and science (DaVinci, Darwin), plus so much more! 

We visited a number of museums and exhibits while in London, and the Treasures of The British Library was my favorite by far. DaVinci's notebook; handwritten music from Handel, Beethoven, Chopin and more; lyrics from The Beatles; a letter from Churchill authorizing the Monuments Men; stunning religious texts; works from Austen and Dickens -- all well-preserved and respectfully displayed.

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)

Details

Name: Treasures of the British Library
Where: The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
Show map      How to get to the Library
When: Monday to Sunday
Opening times and visitor information
Price:Free
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
boxoffice@bl.uk