Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, and one of the earliest surviving literary texts from the English-speaking world. From this unique manuscript, to the precocious wit of the teenage Jane Austen and the pathos of Wilfred Owen’s Great War poetry, the Library holds works from some of the greatest writers in the English language, spanning over 1000 years of literary history. Particularly fascinating are the drafts and re-drafts of some of our greatest literary treasures, which offer a unique insight into the processes and influences that have helped create these iconic works.
Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest.View images from this item (1)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the most well-known romances in medieval English literature and one of the famous Arthurian legends.View images from this item (3)
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
'The Canterbury Tales' by Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1345-1400) was enormously popular in medieval England, with over 80 copies in existence from the 1500s.View images from this item (1)
Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur
This sole surviving manuscript copy (known as the Winchester manuscript) of Thomas Malory’s version of the legends of King Arthur and his knights was made within a decade of the author’s death in 1471.View images from this item (1)
The Notebook of William Blake
William Blake (1757-1827) was a Romantic poet, artist and engraver. This small notebook (159 x 197 mm; 58 leaves) contains sketches and writings by Blake who was probably writing in it from February 1787.View images from this item (113)
Shakespeare's First Folio
The title page of the First Folio with Droeshout’s portrait of Shakespeare.View images from this item (12)
'History of England': Austen juvenilia
Jane Austen’s ‘The History of England’ is a comic account of England from Henry IV to Charles I as told by ‘a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant historian’.View images from this item (12)
Manuscript of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'
This manuscript is a fair copy (a neat copy) of Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'. It was written out on two sides of blue-tinted paper, in preparation for being sent to the printer. It shows evidence of numerous substantive textual changes and apparently predates the version published in 1816.View images from this item (2)
'Alice's Adventures Under Ground', the original manuscript version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll’s friendship with the children would lead him to create one of the most famous and enduring children’s stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.View images from this item (94)
The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde
In 1895, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was found guilty of 'acts of gross indecency with other male persons' and sentenced to two years' hard labour. He was sent to Reading Gaol.View images from this item (1)
Copyright: © British Library
Poetry manuscripts of Wilfred Owen
Wilfred Owen’s manuscript draft of ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’.View images from this item (3)
Copyright: © The Wilfred Owen Literary Estate. This item can be used for your own private study and research. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
The Left-handed Punch
The Library’s collections include thousands of books made by contemporary artists.View images from this item (1)
The Antibook - Francisca Prieto
Challenging with fun and brio the idea of what a book is, the artist Francisca Prieto offers a 3-D rendering of Nicanor Parra’s famous ‘antipoems’.View images from this item (1)
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