How to request Archive and Manuscript items

The Garden of Pleasure, in Roman de la Rose
Detail of a miniature of the 'Garden of Pleasure', from the Roman de la Rose, S. Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1490-c. 1500, Harley MS 4425, f. 12v.

You can view items in the Archive and Manuscript collections in the Library’s Reading Rooms. You may also be able to order copies of prints or digital images.

Published date:

You need a Reader Pass to request archive and manuscript items to view in our Reading Rooms.

To order paper copies, prints or digital images of manuscripts, India Office Records and other unique items, contact Imaging Services (terms and conditions apply).

Not all items in the catalogue can be requested from the catalogue record. Records for persons, institutions, families and places do not represent collection items and cannot be requested. Try navigating to a linked record for a collection item instead. For those items that can be requested, how you request items to a Reading Room differs according to the item's Collection Area:

Note that you can find an item's Collection Area below the title in the detailed view of each record in Explore Archives and Manuscripts:

Title:  Edward Upward: Correspondence (1984)

Collection Area:  Western Manuscripts

Reference:  Add MS 89002/2/17

Creation Date:  1984

Asian & African Collections, Music Collections and Western Manuscripts

You can request items from these collections via the Request Items link on the navigation bar. You can request manuscripts and archives in advance of a visit or order up material for same-day delivery to the Reading Rooms subject to availability, which will be displayed at the point of requesting.

You will need the reference of the item you require, you will find this in both the brief details in the results list and towards the top of the detailed view of each record in Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

To make a request:

  • Log in with your British Library Online Account Username and Password. The log-in link can be found at the top right hand corner of the screen.
  • Click on Request Items in the Navigation bar.

A new window opens with the Request Other Item options. Select the appropriate collection area in the list and for:

India Office Records, Oriental Manuscripts and Visual Arts

Music Collections

  • Choose Music Collections
  • Select the Collection (Additional, Egerton etc)
  • Enter the Reference in the Shelfmark box; exclude the collection prefix, i.e. for MS Mus. 1745
  • Add a Name, Title or Year if you have this to assist retrieval staff
  • You can then Request for today or Add to basket.

Western Manuscripts

    Request for today

    If you only wish to order the one item to a Reading Room:

    • Click Request for today
    • Select a Reading Location
    • Click Confirm.

    A pop-up window confirms whether the item has been requested. Close this window and then logout and close all browser windows.

    Add to basket

    Click Add to basket if you wish to order a number of items to a Reading Room.

    A system message will tell you that the item has been added to your basket. You can continue to add more items to your basket. Or you can go to your Basket to request the item by clicking the link in the top right of the screen (next to the Logout button).

    To request item(s) from your basket

    If you wish to request all items in your Basket for the same date, you can select all items and change the date once.

    If you wish to order more than one item in your basket, but want items delivered on different days, you should specify the date required for each item before you select any of the items.

    • Click in the check box to select the item(s)
    • Check the Date required; the initial date displayed will be for the earliest delivery date possible. If you wish to change the date :
      • Click the date displayed
      • Use the pop-up calendar, to select the date you require
        NB: The date required for items that have a delivery time of 48 or 48+ hours is pre-set for two days from today's date. You can change the date to a later one.
    • Select the reading location
    • Click Request; a pop-up window confirms whether the request was successful
    • Close this pop-up.
    • If you don't want to order any more items, please Log out and close all windows.

    You can check the progress of your request(s) with My Reading Room Requests.

    NB: Items will be kept for you, in the Reading Room, for three working days after the 'Date Required', in the normal way.

    Managing your Basket

    You can have up to 30 items in your Basket at any one time. Items remain in your Basket:

    • Until they are requested
    • Until you remove them
    • For 90 days, after which they are removed automatically.

    NB: Whilst items remain in your basket for up to 90 days they are still available for other people to request.

    If you wish to delete items from your Basket, select them using the check box, then click Delete. You will then be asked to confirm your deletions.

    Endangered Archives Programme (EAP)

    Digital collections copied under the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) are being added to the EAP website.

    Material not currently being loaded onto the website can be viewed in the Reading Rooms. Under normal circumstances at least two weeks' notice will be required. EAP contact details are available on the website.

    Corporate Archive

    Material from the British Library's Corporate Archive may be consulted in the Reading Rooms by appointment only. Please allow at least two full working days' notice. For enquiries or to make an appointment to view material in the Archive please contact the Corporate Archivist at

    Map Collections

    Material from the Map Collections described in the archives and manuscripts catalogue can be consulted in the Reading Rooms by appointment only. For enquiries please contact the Manuscripts and Maps Reference Team.

    Sound Archive

    To access the Ludwig Koch Papers please contact the Curator, Natural Sounds.

    Visual Arts

    To consult Visual Arts materials, including the Kodak Archive, readers first need to book an appointment by sending an email to The Print Room, located in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, is open by appointment on weekday mornings.

    Philatelic Collections

    For enquiries or to make an appointment to view philatelic materials please contact the Philatelic Collections at