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Manuscript catalogues

Explore Archives and Manuscripts

With Explore Archives and Manuscripts you can search and view the details of the Library's archive and manuscript collections including:

  • Manuscripts and unpublished documents
  • Personal papers, correspondence and diaries
  • Family and estate papers
  • India Office Records and Private Papers
  • India Office Prints, Drawings and Paintings
  • Photographs.

Some of the items in the British Library's Archives and Manuscripts collections are available as Digitised Manuscripts.

Other online Manuscripts catalogues 


Use the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts to explore in depth the British Library's medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. You can view detailed descriptions with images and take tours of the Library's illuminated manuscript holdings.


The International Dunhuang Project Catalogue of Silk Road Manuscripts has records of over 30,000 manuscripts in the British Library and collections worldwide written in more than 15 languages and scripts from the eastern Silk Road, dating from the second century BC to the 12th century AD.


Music Manuscripts (1600 to 1800) in British and Irish Libraries contains music manuscripts held by the British Library and more than 60 other libraries. You can search by tune, composer and title and can play back the first few notes of the pieces and view images of some of the manuscripts.


Other printed catalogues

Published catalogues exist for a large proportion of the named Manuscript Collections - they usually include both descriptions of and indexes to the manuscripts in particular collections. In addition, many of these separate indexes have been brought together in an amalgamated index known as the Index of Manuscripts, 10 vols. (Cambridge, 1984-1986).

An unpublished subject index and a 19th-century 'Class Catalogue' provide further means of accessing the collections in the Manuscripts Reading Room. There is also a wealth of published material available, providing summaries, descriptions and indexes to manuscripts arranged chronologically, by language, or by subject matter. Many of these books are available on the open access shelves of the Manuscripts Reading Room, where assistance can also be sought from the Enquiry Team, the Superintendent or the Curatorial Advisor.

Many collections, including some recent acquisitions, can also be located online through the National Register of Archives.