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

Accuracy? Do me a favour!

Monday, December 10, 2018

'Atlas: a world of maps in the British Library' is a different sort of atlas to, say, the Times world atlas or the AA motoring atlas, because you would never use it to find your way from A to B...

Women and books in Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Whenever I talk to members of the public who have visited the British Library's Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition, one of the most common reactions is, ‘I didn’t expect there to be so much about women!’ As Claire Breay recently discussed on...

From the Tower the day before my death

Friday, December 7, 2018

On 21 January 1552, Edward Seymour, 1st duke of Somerset, took some time from his prison cell in the Tower of London to compose his thoughts in a small almanac (British Library, Stowe MS 1066). Bound in crimson velvet, the...

From Westmorland to India – William Lambert of the Bombay Army

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

In our last post we met William Lambert, a young Cadet in the East India Company’s Bombay Army, soon after his arrival in India in 1780. He wrote to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England giving his first impressions of...

More blog posts

Shop

illuminated manuscript

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

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 is one of the most important books in the world.

£50