Treasures of the British Library

Monday to SundayFREE

For more information

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.

Our public spaces are closed for the moment.

Following the latest government advice and to keep everyone safe we’re closing our Reading Rooms, galleries and public spaces in St Pancras and Boston Spa. 

We’ll let you know as soon as the situation changes and we’re able to welcome you back safely.

Until then, you can explore our exhibitions from home.  

Explore the wonderful treasures in Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word when you take our virtual tour, or jump into our interactive UK map to discover locations linked to women’s activism near you or explore other stories on our Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights web resource.

 

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

All tickets must be pre-booked at the moment. Please remember to keep a safe distance from other visitors, and you must wear a face covering at all times. 

We’re reopening for everyone and are continuing to follow government guidance to keep everyone safe. Find out more about how we’re welcoming you to the Library safely.

Where to start

Presented as a new one-way route showcasing the greatest works from our literary, scientific, music, art and sacred texts collections, discover the stories that have shaped the world – while keeping a safe distance from others.

The new route will lead you past 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.

You can 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.

If you’ve been here before, you might notice the gallery looks a little different. This is to give you enough room to enjoy the displays and keep everyone safe. We’ve also moved Magna Carta to provide a safe space for everyone to see this most significant of royal charters.

What else can I see?

  • 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.

Can’t wait to visit? Get a taste of what's inside the gallery.

Please note

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.

The Library’s Privacy Policy can be found on our website

Details

Name: Treasures of the British Library
Where: The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
Show map      How to get to the Library
When: Monday to Sunday
Opening times and visitor information
Price: Free
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
boxoffice@bl.uk

A sample of what you can see...

Magna Carta 1215

John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of…

Jane Austen's writing desk and spectacles

In 1794 Jane Austen’s father gave her this…

Lindisfarne Gospels

The Lindisfarne Gospels has long been acclaimed as the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon…

Shakespeare's First Folio

The First Folio is the first collected edition of William Shakespeare's…

Manuscript of Emily Brontë's Gondal poetry

In 1844, Emily Brontë began two new notebooks. In this one she…

Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, 1631

This is the 1631 edition of Christopher Marlowe’s best-known…

Captain Scott's diary, volume 3

Robert Falcon Scott (1868 - 1912) and his four companions reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, just one month after…

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