Treasures of the British Library

Monday to SundayFREE
A collage of various personalities represented  in the British Library collection

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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.

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?

  • 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.

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.

Temporary displays

We also have temporary displays throughout the year:

Animal Rights: From the Margins to the Mainstream

On display until 9 July 2023

For centuries, people in the UK have fought to provide a voice for animals and to protect their welfare. Whether through legal reform, grassroots activism or societal trends, the push for animal rights has worked to improve the lives of animals in our homes, in farming and in the wild.

In 1824, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) was founded – now the oldest and largest animal welfare organisation in the world. Since then, theories on the rights of animals have expanded to encompass legal and moral rights and humanity’s impact on the environment.

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.

Find out about how we’re welcoming you to the Library safely.


Name: Treasures of the British Library
Where: The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: Monday to Sunday
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546

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…