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Sir John Ritblat Gallery: 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 Gallery displays many of our greatest treasures. See over 200 beautiful and fascinating items: sacred texts from many faiths, maps and views, early printing, 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 exciting and significant books, from Magna Carta and the Gutenberg Bible, to Mozart and the Beatles. Marvel at the genius behind the Leonardo notebooks, and see the earliest versions of some of the greatest works of literature, including Alice's Adventures Under Ground and Shakespeare's First Folio.

A display in the Treasures gallery

Some of the new highlights are:

  • The newly acquired Mystère de la Vengeance manuscript read the Press Release
  • Diamond Sutra (the world's earliest dated printed book)
  • Laurence Olivier's script for Macbeth
  • Hanif Kureishi's diary from his recently acquired archive
  • Celestial globe, 110cm across

List of items on display in the gallery [PDF]

Treasures gallery

Laurie Lee display

As part of a national programme to mark Laurie Lee’s centenary there is a display entitled ‘Laurie Lee: Memories of War’ from 17 April to 20 July 2014. Laurie Lee was busking around Spain when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936. A year later he returned to fight for the Republican forces. The small display from Lee’s archive includes his 1936-37 diary, and drafts of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment of War.

What our visitors think

Some comments on TripAdvisor

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 di 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.