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

Lichfield: the third archbishopric

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

For the majority of the Anglo-Saxon period, the English Church had two archbishoprics, one at Canterbury and the other at York, just as it does today. So it might surprise some of you to hear that from 787 to 803...

The cloak of St Martin of Tours

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Today is the feast of St Martin of Tours (c. 317–397). According to medieval accounts about his life, Martin was a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity after an encounter with a half-naked beggar at the gate of the city...

What you won't see in Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Saturday, November 10, 2018

There are riches aplenty in the British Library’s Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition. On display are several famous early English manuscripts, including Beowulf, Domesday Book and Codex Amiatinus. But there isn't any mention of certain stories that you might expect, such as...

Journey to India of Randolph Marriott, East India Company Servant

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A recent acquisition to the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting account of the voyage to India of a new employee of the East India Company. Randolph Marriott joined the Company as a writer, and his papers include his...

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illuminated manuscript

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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