Access and Reuse Guidance Notes for unpublished manuscripts

Although legally in copyright in the UK (and a number of other common law territories) as unpublished manuscripts until 2039, the British Library has decided to make the images of pre-1800 collection items available on this website.

Copyright status of manuscript material: The 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (as amended) states that unpublished literary and artistic works remain in copyright in the UK until at least 31 December 2039. Therefore important parts of the library’s collection remain in copyright, including manuscripts created more than 200 years ago. However, the Library believes that putting online selected unpublished material created many centuries ago and in the public domain in most other countries, is unlikely to offend. As an institution whose role it is to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, we have therefore taken the decision to release certain digitised images technically still in copyright in the UK on this website for the use of school students, teachers and the wider public. For any further questions please contact

The British Library asks that anyone reusing digital images from this collection applies the following principles:

  • Please respect the creators – ensure traditional cultural expressions and all ethical concerns in the use of the material are considered, and any information relating to the creator is clear and accurate. Please note, any adaptations made to an image should not be attributed to the original creator and should not be derogatory to the originating cultures or communities.
  • Please credit the source of the material – providing a link back to the image on the British Library’s website will encourage others to explore and use the collections.

This usage guide for images is based on goodwill. It is not a legal contract. We ask that you respect it.