About Explore Archives and Manuscripts

Explore Archives and Manuscripts
Explore Archives and Manuscripts

With Explore Archives and Manuscripts you can search for information about our rich and unique archive and manuscript collections.

Published date:

Explore Archives and Manuscripts contains records for the majority of our manuscript and paper-based archives, photographs and an increasing number of digital archives.

Our sound archive collections and moving image collections are not included. 


Records for these collections areas are found in Explore Archives and Manuscripts:

For more information, please ask at the Manuscripts Reference Enquiry Desk or contact the Reference Team.

Key features

With Explore Archives and Manuscripts you can:

  • search for detailed catalogue information about the Library’s archives and manuscripts, and navigate to see descriptions of the collections and series of which they are part
  • search for and see descriptions of people and places and then navigate to related archive and manuscript descriptions
  • use Refine options to filter your Results
  • tag, or make notes about, items that interest you
  • create Alerts to provide you with updated results from your search queries
  • enable RSS feeds to run search queries and notify you of new items found.

See the Guide to Explore Archives and Manuscripts for more details.

Future developments

We will continue to add catalogue information from our other online and print archive and manuscript catalogues. In the meantime you should consult our other archives and manuscripts catalogues and our archives and manuscripts digital collections alongside Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

We have still to develop a seamless requesting system to allow Readers to order items directly from the catalogue to reading rooms. Readers can request many items via the ‘Request Items’ link in the menu bar. You should make a careful check of record details for access and user conditions before requesting or visiting the Library.

Collection guides

Royal manuscripts

Manuscripts collected by English sovereigns from Edward IV onwards

King’s manuscripts

Medieval and post-medieval manuscripts and topographical material

Sale catalogues

An essential resource for provenance research

Manuscript maps

Cartography from the Middle Ages to the present


A wide-ranging collection of fine and historic bindings

Music manuscripts and archives

Sources for vocal and instrumental works from the Middle Ages to the present

Medieval and early modern British historical manuscripts

Sources for British history before 1600

Western illuminated manuscripts

Approximately 9,000 manuscripts with decoration or illumination

Medieval and early modern British literary manuscripts

Sources for British literature before 1600

Classical Latin manuscripts

Manuscripts of Latin authors from before 600

Burney manuscripts

One of the most significant collections of classical material in the British Library

Arundel manuscripts

Medieval and early modern manuscripts collected by Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel

Harley manuscripts

Manuscripts, charters, and rolls collected by the Harley family

Lansdowne manuscripts

A collection of modern political papers and material relating to topography and heraldry

Early printed books

Highlights of incunabula and books printed before 1600