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Manuscript Collections

The manuscript collections of the British Library form part of the national repository of manuscripts, private papers and archives. They contain material of outstanding research importance for all periods, countries and disciplines.

Group of seated figures, two holding books, engaging in discussion.

Christine de Pisan, Collected Works, circa 1410-1411. Group of seated figures, two holding books, engaging in discussion. Harley MS 4431, f.101. Copyright © The British Library Board

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Collections by Curatorial Area

The Department of Manuscripts is divided into the following areas:

Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts (circa 300 BC to 1603)

Modern Historical Collections (1603 to the Present)

Literary and Theatrical Collections

Named Collections

The manuscripts held by the British Library comprise of a series of named collections that have been acquired over the history of the British Museum and the Library, from the Foundation Collections (Cotton, Harley and Sloane) to the series of Additional Manuscripts. The latter comprise the largest collection of manuscripts.

Manuscripts are rarely arranged thematically, as most recent acquisitions are simply added to the continuing 'Additional' series, and 'closed' collections, assembled by collectors before being acquired by the British Library, naturally encompass a wide variety of material.

 

Foundation Collections
Open Access Collections
Arundel
Additional
Facsimiles
Ashley
Egerton
Pamphlets
Burney
Charters & Rolls
Photographic Index
 
Hargrave
Seals
Reference Books
 
Kings
Plays
 
 
Lansdowne
Papyri
 
 
Royal
Ostraca
 
 
Stowe
Loans
 
 
Yates Thompson
Facsimiles (inc. digital)
 
 
Zweig
Microform
 
  
Exported Manuscripts
 

Western Manuscripts

Records for many Western Manuscripts including: Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts, Modern Historical Collections (1603 to the Present) and Literary and Theatrical Archives and Manuscripts can be found on Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts. The following catalogues or parts of collections are not yet included in the online catalogue (although selected Burney, Harley, and Yates Thompson manuscripts are included in the digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts): 

For detailed and special catalogues, and other finding aids not forming part of the online catalogue, see M.A.E. Nickson, Guide to the catalogues and indexes of the Department of Manuscripts (3rd ed. London, 1998).

Manuscripts Collections Reader Guides

These guides are designed to be printed and read.

 

Contact

Manuscripts and Maps Reference Team
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7513 / 7702
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7745

E-mail: Ask the Reference Team