Literature

Discover some of the finest poetry, prose and drama in the English language.

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. 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Image shows The Prologue, f.76

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Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur

Image showing Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte D'Arthur'

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The Notebook of William Blake

The Notebook of William Blake [folio: 3v]

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Shakespeare's First Folio

Shakespeare's First Folio - title page and introduction by Ben Johnson

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'History of England': Austen juvenilia

History of England': Austen juvenilia [folio: ff. 77v-78r]

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Manuscript of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'

Manuscript of S T Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' [folio: 1r]

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'Alice's Adventures Under Ground', the original manuscript version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures Under Ground', the original manuscript version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [folio: 7r]

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The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol

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Copyright: © British Library

The Poetry Manuscripts of Wilfred Owen

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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 Antibook - Francisca Prieto

The Antibook by Francisca Prieto, inspired by the poetry of Nicanor Parra. Photo by Xavier Young

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