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.
Plan your visit
The gallery is open for everyone and free. Please take care and respect everyone’s space as you move around the building. We’re still asking all visitors to wear a face covering while they’re here.
Find out more about how we’re welcoming you to the Library safely.
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?
- From 7 December 2021, in celebration of 150 years of Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There you will be able to see a display dedicated to Alice, including Lewis Carroll’s diary, a first edition of Through the Looking Glass and original illustrations from the Macmillan archive
- The desk where Jane Austen penned her novels, original writings from Charles Dickens and Shakespeare’s First Folio
- Our Art of the Book display dedicated to women artists including Karen Bleitz, Joumana Medlej, Christine Tacq and Angela Lorenz
- 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
Detritus, a work created by Ivorypress as an insight into the materials that inspired the artist Francis Bacon, featuring facsimiles of ephemera found in his London studio.
Can’t wait to visit? Get a taste of what's inside the gallery.
We also have temporary displays throughout the year. Find out about our latest one on Life on the Home Front.
The gallery is open for everyone and free. Please take care and respect everyone’s space as you move around the building. We’re still asking all visitors to wear a face covering while they’re here. Find out more about how we're keeping everyone safe.
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.
Data Protection and Track & Trace
In addition to collecting contact details as part of our normal booking process, we will also be recording the times that users enter and leave our premises in order to reduce the risk of a local outbreak of coronavirus.
In line with guidance issued by the Department for Health and Social Care, we will keep these details for 21 days. We will share your contact details with Test and Trace personnel, if asked, in the event of a fellow user or staff member testing positive for coronavirus.
Your data will be kept secure and handled in line with ethical standards and the Data Protection Act at every stage of the process – from its collection and storage by us to its transfer and use by NHS Test and Trace. NHS Test and Trace will handle all data according to the highest ethical and security standards and it will be used only for NHS care, management, evaluation and research.