You can access ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary manuscript and archive material from around the world. Our collections include historical, literary, political, scientific, and religious papers as well as maps, charters, seals, rolls, and papyri.

Collection guides

Reading Room  Paul Grundy

Manuscripts Reading Room

The Manuscripts Reading Room is the enquiry point for the Library's western language manuscript collections (i.e. written by hand, not printed). The collection includes literary, historical manuscripts and private papers.

  • Find information on the shelves about the British Library’s collection of western manuscripts and those held elsewhere
  • Access online databases and electronic journals and books relating to archives and manuscripts
  • Order collection items to the Reading Room via our Explore Archives & Manuscripts Catalogue

Some of our manuscripts may require a Letter of Introduction, or may have other Access Conditions.

We offer free Discovery and 1-2-1 Sessions to help you make the best use of the Library's collections. 

You’ll need a Reader Pass

Mon: 10.00 – 17.00
Tue – Sat: 09.30 – 17.00
Sun & English Public Holidays: closed

Opening hours for all Reading Rooms

For enquiries, please contact the Manuscripts Reference Team

Blog posts

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: a once-in-a-generation exhibition

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War, the largest ever exhibition on the history, literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England, opens at the British Library on 19 October. We are delighted to give you a brief glimpse here of some of the...

Shiva Naipaul: An Unfinished Journey

Thursday, October 18, 2018

In our final Windrush blog before the exhibition closes on Sunday, I would like to focus on Shiva Naipaul, the award-winning novelist and travel writer whose archive is held here at the British Library. Shiva Naipaul photographed by Fay Godwin...

Manuscripts from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms online

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The British Library holds the world’s most important collections of books made or owned in England between the eclipse of Roman Britain and the Norman Conquest of 1066. These books and documents contain crucial evidence for the development of society,...

The last Anglo-Saxon kings

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This weekend marks two important anniversaries. 13 October is the feast-day of King Edward the Confessor, who ruled England from 1042 until his death in January 1066. His successor, King Harold II, was killed 952 years ago at the Battle...

More blog posts

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illuminated manuscript

$name

The British Library houses one of the world's greatest collections of illuminated manuscripts, and Janet Backhouse has drawn on this rich resource to make a selection of outstanding examples that span over 800 years of medieval book production.

£8.95

A History of the Book in 100 Books (hardback)

From inscriptions on tombs to the first writings on papyrus; from scrolls to the first bound codex books in Roman times.

£20

Codex Sinaiticus book cover

Codex Sinaiticus: New Perspectives on the Ancient Biblical Manuscript

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world.

£50