About the project

A rich celebration of our cultural heritage, Discovering Literature is a free educational resource that provides unprecedented access to the Library’s literary and historical collections. Aimed at A level students, undergraduates and the general public, the site uses manuscript and printed sources to shed light on the historical, political and cultural contexts in which key literary works were written. Users can explore high-resolution digitised images; articles written by scholars, poets, novelists and journalists; short documentary films; and teachers' notes.  The site has been described as 'an important cultural resource that can be enjoyed by all ages' (The Observer, 30 August 2014); 'immensely fantastic' (Stephen Fry, Twitter); 'inspiring' (BBC Click); and of 'enormous value' to students, teachers and scholars (Journal of Victorian Culture Online, May 2014).

The first phase of Discovering Literature focuses on Romantic and Victorian literature, and showcases some of the Library's most treasured literary collection items, including the manuscripts of William Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë. In addition, the site includes a rich range of contextual material, such as newspapers, letters, diaries, photographs, pamphlets, broadsides, playbills and other forms of ephemera.

Discovering Literature features over 8,000 pages of collection items and explores more than 20 authors through 165 newly-commissioned articles, 25 short documentary films, and 30 lesson plans. More than 60 experts have contributed interpretation, enriching the website with contemporary research. Designed to enhance the study and enjoyment of English literature, the site contains a dedicated Teachers’ Area supporting the curriculum for GCSE and A Level students.

These great works from the Romantic and Victorian periods form the first phase of a wider project to explore the entire literary canon, from the first to the 21st century.

Watch our short film to find out more about Discovering Literature.

The British Library is grateful to the following organisations for their contribution to Discovering Literature, which has included the digitisation of their collections as well as filming: 

The Brontë Parsonage Museum
Charles Dickens Museum
Dove Cottage
Jane Austen’s House Museum
Keats House
Strawberry Hill House
Tennyson Research Centre

Special thanks to our Advisory Board for their invaluable contribution to the website: Petonelle Archer, Professor John Bowen, Mick Connell, Dr Holly Furneaux, Professor John Mullan, Professor Michael Slater MBE, Professor Kathryn Sutherland and Dr Matthew Taunton.

Discovering Literature has been supported since its inception by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, The Exilarch's Foundation.

The project has also been generously supported by the British Library Trust and the British Library Patrons. Further development of the project is being supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Evalyn Lee.