From Magna Carta and Shakespeare to Florence Nightingale and Gandhi. Explore some of the world’s most exciting, beautiful and significant books, maps and manuscripts.
Telling the remarkable stories of over 2,000 years of human experience, our Treasures of the British Library Gallery introduces you to some of the most awe-inspiring items in our collection.
The Treasures Gallery will be closed all day on 11 December 2023, 4 March 2024 and 10 June 2024. On Thursday 19 October it will close at 18.00.
Where to start
Showcasing the greatest works from our literary, scientific, music, art and sacred texts collections, discover the stories that have shaped the world.
Explore works of genius such as the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, detailing his marvellous inventions, and the laboratory notes of Marilyn Monk and Cathy Holding, pioneers of genetic diagnosis. You’ll travel through Africa, Asia and Europe via the history of the book, and discover religious texts from across the world including The Ma’il Qur’an, the Library's oldest Qur'an manuscript.
Picture yourself at the desk of great writers as you look at handwritten manuscripts from the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, and Andrea Levy’s working drafts for Small Island and The Long Song. And you’ll have the chance to get close to the works of musical maestros from Mozart to McCartney.
What else can I see?
- Original writings from Charles Dickens and Shakespeare’s First Folio
- A letter from writer, composer and anti-slavery campaigner Charles Ignatius Sancho
- Sacred texts around the globe, including a Baha'i sacred text; a tablet written by the Bab in the form of a five-pointed star, and a Hindu manuscript written on a palm leaf
- Science and innovation through the ages from Michelangelo’s anatomical illustrations to Florence Nightingale’s original Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East
- A history of firsts, from the world’s earliest maps to one of the first ever photographs of the moon.
Can’t wait to visit? Get a taste of what's inside the gallery.
What's new in the Gallery?
Items recently added to the Treasures Gallery include the St Cuthbert Gospel, Emily Brontë’s notebook and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending musical score.
We also have temporary displays throughout the year:
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Until Sunday 26 November
Immerse yourself in a rich tapestry of spoken word, music, wildlife and environmental sounds in a new installation in our free Treasures Gallery.
Dimmed lighting and comfortable seating await you, accompanied by an ambient soundscape drawn from our extensive archive, creating an atmosphere of tranquillity and providing a space to relax and unwind.
You are welcome to visit any time and stay as long as you like.
Breathe In, Breathe Out is part of a new programme of displays within our Treasures Gallery dedicated to exploring new ways of working. Your feedback will help us create a new gallery experience for our visitors.
You may find the gallery cooler and darker than other areas of the Library. This controlled environment protects any items that may fade, discolour, or be damaged in bright light or humid conditions. We recommend bringing an extra layer for your comfort.
Items are taken off display on a regular basis for conservation reasons and may also be lent to other institutions for exhibition. If you wish to be sure that a particular item is on display, please check in advance.