How to request Archive and Manuscript items

The Garden of Pleasure, in Roman de la Rose

You can view items in the Archive and Manuscript collections in the Library’s Reading Rooms. You may also be able to order copies of prints or digital images.

Published date:

You need a Reader Pass to request archive and manuscript items to view in our Reading Rooms.

To order paper copies, prints or digital images of manuscripts, India Office Records and other unique items, contact Imaging Services (terms and conditions apply).

How you request items to a Reading Room differs according to the item's Collection Area, which can be found below the title in the detailed view of each record:

India Office Records, Music Collections and Western or Oriental Manuscripts

You request items from these collection areas via the Request Other Items link on the navigation bar. You can request manuscripts and archives in advance of a visit or order up material for same-day delivery to the Reading Rooms subject to availability.

You will need the reference of the item you require, you will find this in both the brief details in the results list and at the top of the detailed view of each record in Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

To make a request:

  • Log in with your British Library Online Account number and Password. The log-in link can be found at the top right hand corner of the screen.
  • Click on Request Other Items in the Navigation bar.
  • A new window opens with the Request Other Item options. Select the appropriate collection area in the list and follow the instructions for each Collection Area:

    India Office Records

    • Choose Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections
    • Select one of the following catalogues: India Office Records or Private Papers (European Manuscripts)
    • Enter the Reference in the Shelfmark box; exclude the collection prefix, i.e. for IORL/MIL/14/1234 enter L/MIL/14/1234 and for MSS Eur F123/2 enter F123/2.
    • You can then Request for today or Add to basket.

    Music Collections

    • Choose Music Collections
    • Select the Collection (Additional, Egerton etc)
    • Enter the Reference in the Shelfmark box; exclude the collection prefix, i.e. for MS Mus. 1745
    • Add a Name, Title or Year if you have this to assist retrieval staff
    • You can then Request for today or Add to basket.

    Western Manuscripts

    • Choose Manuscripts Collection
    • Enter the Reference in the Reference box; include the collection prefix (e.g., Add MS 16593)
    • You can then Request for today or Add to basket.

    Oriental Manuscripts

    • Choose Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections
    • Select Oriental Manuscripts
    • Enter the Reference in the Shelfmark box; include part of the collection prefix, followed by a full stop and then the number (e.g., for Add MS 12345 enter Add.12345)
    • You can then Request for today or Add to basket.

Request for today

If you only wish to order the one item to a Reading Room:

  • Click Request for today
  • Select a Reading Location
  • Click Confirm.

A pop-up window confirms whether the item has been requested. Close this window to return to Explore the British Library.

Add to basket

Click Add to basket if you wish to order a number of items to a Reading Room.

A system message will advise you that the item has been added to your basket. You add more items to your basket or proceed to your Basket to request the item by clicking the link in the top right of the screen (next to the Logout button).

To request item(s) from your basket

NB: If you wish to request all items in your Basket for the same date, you can select all items and then just change the date once. But, if you wish to order more than one item in your basket, but want items delivered on different days, you should specify the date required for each item before you select any of the items.

  • Click in the check box to select the item(s)
  • Check the Date required; the initial date displayed will be for the earliest delivery date possible. If you wish to change the date :
    • Click the date displayed
    • Use the pop-up calendar, to select the date you require
      NB: The date required for items that have a delivery time of 48 or 48+ hours is pre-set for two days from today's date. You can change the date to a later one.
  • Select the reading location
  • Click Request; a pop-up window confirms whether the request was successful
  • Close this pop-up and you return to Explore the British Library. If you don't want to order any more items, please Log out and close the window. You should also log out of Search our Catalogue Archive and Manuscripts and close all windows.

You can check the progress of your request(s) with My Reading Room Requests.

NB: Items will be kept for you, in the Reading Room, for three working days after the 'Date Required', in the normal way.

Managing your Basket

You can have up to 30 items in your Basket at any one time. Items remain in your Basket:

  • Until they are requested
  • Until you remove them
  • For 90 days, after which they are removed automatically.

NB: Whilst items remain in your basket for up to 90 days they are still available for other people to request.

If you wish to delete items from your Basket, select them using the check box, then click Delete. You will then be asked to confirm your deletions.

Endangered Archives Programme (EAP)

Digital collections copied under the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) are being added to the EAP website.

Material currently not uploading onto the website can be viewed in the British Library's Reading Rooms. Under normal circumstances at least two weeks' notice will be required. EAP contact details are available on the website.

Corporate Archive

Material from the British Library's Corporate Archive may be consulted in the Reading Rooms by appointment only. Please allow at least two full working days' notice. For enquiries or to make an appointment to view material in the Archive please contact the Corporate Archivist at BL-archives@bl.uk.

Map Collections

Material from the Map Collections described in the archives and manuscripts catalogue can be consulted in the Reading Rooms by appointment only. For enquiries please contact the Manuscripts and Maps Reference Team.

Sound Archive

To access the Ludwig Koch Papers please contact the Curator, Natural Sounds.

Visual Arts

Visual Arts material can be consulted in the Reading Rooms by appointment only. To access the Kodak Archive please contact John Falconer. For enquiries or to make an appointment to view other Visual Arts material please contact Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections Prints at apac-prints@bl.uk.

Philatelic Collections

For enquiries or to make an appointment to view philatelic materials please contact the Philatelic Collections at philatelic@bl.uk.