About the project

Exploring the Romantic and Victorian periods, Discovering Literature brings together, for the first time, a wealth of the British Library’s greatest literary treasures, including numerous original manuscripts, first editions and rare illustrations.

A rich variety of contextual material - newspapers, photographs, advertisements and maps - is presented alongside personal letters and diaries from iconic authors. Together they bring to life the historical, political and cultural contexts in which major works were written: works that have shaped our literary heritage.

William Blake’s notebook, childhood writings of the Brontë sisters, the manuscript of the Preface to Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, and an early draft of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest are just some of the unique collections available on the site.

Discovering Literature features over 8000 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 digitise other literary eras, including the 20th century.

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

The British Library is hugely 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.