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Manuscripts reference enquiries

Here are three examples of the kind of enquiry that the Manuscripts Reference Team can help you with.

If your enquiry requires in-depth research or more specialist help than we can provide we will forward your enquiry to the appropriate person, refer you to our Research Service or suggest alternative sources of help.

Why can't I find all of the Manuscript Foundation collections in the Manuscripts Online Catalogue?

The Manuscripts Online catalogue is a catalogue in progress, and some of the early collections, notably the Harley Collections, are not yet available. The following published catalogues or parts of catalogues have not yet been automated:

  • Catalogue of Additions 1783-1835 (index - descriptions not published)
  • Burney (descriptions)
  • Harley (descriptions and index)*
  • Index Locorum of charters (index)
  • King's (index)
  • Lansdowne (index)
  • Royal (index)

In addition, the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts contains new descriptions of over 400 Harley MS.S

Unpublished catalogues available at present through manual indexes in Manuscripts Reading Room are Plays after 1852, and Modern Playscript, Play Correspondence, Reserved Photocopies and Departmental Microfilms.

I would like to see the Blake Notebooks, how do I make arrangements?

Access to very special manuscript material requires, in addition to a current Reader Pass, that you provide a letter of recommendation, and need to have viewed all available surrogates.

It will be necessary to provide very precise academic reasons for your need of access to the original manuscript, and if you feel that you still have need to view the original manuscripts where facsimile or other surrogates are available, you will need to make a precise academic request in writing to the Manuscript Collections.

In the case of the Blake notebooks, there is good coverage available on the British Library website.

If the surrogates are not suitable for your needs, it will be necessary for you to request a special application form, which will be submitted to a senior curator for assessment.

Access will be granted only in rare cases when suitable surrogates exist. Three working days should be allowed to process such requests.

Such restrictions are applied to all "Treasures" and "Exhibition" items. We regret that it is not possible to know which items are so restricted from the Manuscripts Online Catalogue, and it is always wise to contact the Manuscript Collections before travelling, allowing four working days for investigations to be made.

What illustrations are available depicting medieval agriculture and horticulture?

Wherever possible, picture research should be carried out using printed texts available from the Library's catalogue, Explore the British Library, within the Humanities collections; and from the Facsimiles, "Printed Books", microfilms and slide collections available, within the Manuscripts Reading Room.