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Treasures of the British Library

Sir John Ritblat Gallery, British Library

The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery contains over 200 beautiful and fascinating items

What to see

The Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery hosts more than 200 beautiful and fascinating items: sacred texts from many faiths, maps and views, early printed books, literary, historical, scientific and musical works from over the centuries and around the world. Half of the items now on display have not been seen by the public for many years.

Discover some of the world's most beautiful and significant books and documents, from Magna Carta and Gutenberg's Bible, to Mozart and the Beatles. Marvel at the genius behind the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks, and see the earliest versions of some of the greatest works of literature, including the Beowulf manuscript and Shakespeare's First Folio.

A display in the Treasures gallery

More highlights:

  • Diamond Sutra - world's earliest dated printed book
  • Codex Sinaiticus - earliest complete copy of the New Testament
  • Handel's Messiah - in the composer's hand
  • Laurence Olivier's script for Macbeth
  • Celestial globe, 110cm across

Treasures gallery

What our visitors think

Some comments on TripAdvisor

We thought the British Library was just a traditional library with the occasional exhibition, but had a little time to spend before catching our train at Euston. We were amazed at the permanent display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, and astonished to see originals of the Magna Carta, fascinating early books of all types and significant items right up to the present day. There was well written detail and historical context. Not to be missed!

The highlight for us was the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. It houses treasures such as the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, sacred texts from so many religions, all kinds of illustrated manuscripts, early books, music scores. It is all here, at the highest level one could dream of...

Everything from Magna Carta, Korans and Books of Hours and Buddhist & Hindu texts. Musical materials range from Handel to the Beatles including original scores written in the hand of the maestros themselves. Also scientific works - Darwin, Fleming etc. Literature from Dickens, Austen etc. All for free...

Wow! Just an amazing collecting for any book lover to see. From bibles written in 400AD to "the" Alice in Wonderland (the handwritten original that was given to "Alice" the inspiration for the story), to the original lyrics to the Beatles' "Help" as they were scratched out on scrap paper...

There are original sketches and notes of Leonardo da Vinci, works by Shakespeare, song sheets produced by Handel, Mozart and the Beatles and original handwritten letters from the Royal family and other important historical figures...

There are a number of ancient sacred texts on display, and it was, of course, incredible to see the Magna Carta up close. Don't miss the displays of music manuscripts...seeing the Beatles' handwritten lyrics was fun....

Note: sometimes items are lent to other institutions for exhibition. If you wish to be sure that a particular item is on display, please check in advance.

All exhibition galleries are usually open to everyone seven days a week.