Find and request Lord Chamberlain's Plays

Green boxes on white shelves
The Lord Chamberlain's Plays, the largest single manuscript collection in the British Library

You can use the indexes in our Manuscripts Reading Room and the online Archives and Manuscripts catalogue to find and request your items

About this collection

The Lord Chamberlain’s Plays is our largest single manuscript collection. If you have a Reader Pass, you can consult items from the collection in our Manuscripts Reading Room.

How to request catalogued items

You can use our online catalogue, Explore Archives and Manuscripts, to find some parts of the collection.

Once you find your item in the catalogue, note its reference number (eg. “Add MS 42865”). Then go to the Request Other Items tab, choose Western Manuscripts Collection and enter the reference number.

The following parts of the collection are catalogued:

How to find uncatalogued items

You can find lists and indexes in the theatre reference section of the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Before requesting items to the Manuscripts Reading Room, you'll need to find the reference number for the material you want to see.

The lists of plays are in licence number order, roughly chronological by date of receipt. There is a separate volume containing lists of unlicensed plays from 1897-1968. The lists were compiled in preparation for the collection’s transfer to the British Library from the Lord Chamberlain's Office.

Near these lists are extensive card indexes (please note that some titles in the index were no longer in the collection at the time of its transfer to the British Library):

  • Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1823–99 (by title)
  • Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1900–68 (by title)
  • Lord Chamberlain’s Plays Correspondence files, 1900–68 (by title)

How to request uncatalogued items

To request uncataloged items to the Manuscripts Reading Room, go to the Request Other Items tab of Explore Archives and Manuscripts, choose Western Manuscripts Collection and enter the following references:

  • Plays submitted for licence from 1900-68: LCP followed by the year and volume number (eg. “LCP 1938/15”)
  • Unlicensed Plays: use the Additional Manuscript number found in the list of Unlicensed Plays in the theatre reference section of the Manuscripts Reading Room (e.g. Add MS 68850)
  • Correspondence files: LCP followed by the year and volume number (eg. “LCP CORR 1952/32”)
  • Waiting Box Correspondence files: LCP CORR followed by WB and the year (eg. “LCP CORR WB 1963”)
  • Licence Refused Correspondence files: LCP CORR followed by LR and the year (eg. “LCP CORR LR 1921”).

Collection guides

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

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Printed items, manuscripts, letters, works of art and memorabilia relating to Oscar Wilde

Literary archives and manuscripts 1600 to present

Archives of poets, playwrights, novelists and literary organisations

Theatrical archives and manuscripts 1900 to present

Archives of playwrights, actors, directors, critics, theatre companies and theatrical agents

Ted Hughes Collection

The special collection of Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin books and manuscripts

Manuscript maps

Cartography from the Middle Ages to the present

Royal manuscripts

Manuscripts collected by English sovereigns from Edward IV onwards


A wide-ranging collection of fine and historic bindings

King’s manuscripts

Medieval and post-medieval manuscripts and topographical material

Modern British historical archives and manuscripts

Archives and manuscript sources useful for the study of British history after 1600

Lansdowne manuscripts

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

Modern Scientific Manuscripts

Western manuscripts for the history of science, technology and medicine in the modern period

Drama and literature recordings

A unique collection of audio-visual recordings of drama, poetry and literature in performance

Poetry Pamphlets

Poetry pamphlets published by independent presses.

Zweig manuscripts

Musical scores, fragments, and literary and historical items collected by Stefan Zweig (1881–1942).