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

Medieval Love Island

Saturday, July 21, 2018

British television has been swept off its feet this summer by a certain reality contest in which a group of singletons compete to find romance on an exotic island. Love it or loathe it, society has always been infatuated with...

Leeds in July: The Polonsky Foundation Pre-1200 Project

Thursday, July 19, 2018

For the past twenty-five years, thousands of medievalists from around the world have travelled every July to the Leeds International Medieval Congress. This is the United Kingdom’s largest academic conference and one of the largest global gatherings of medievalists. With...

Digitised Manuscripts hyperlinks July 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Hot on the heels of our recent announcement that the British Library's Anglo-Saxon charters are now online, we are pleased to provide you with another phenomenally fantastic list of digitised manuscripts hyperlinks. As usual, we are making this list available...

It's coming home

Sunday, July 15, 2018

There are just a few hours to go before one of the greatest tournaments in the world reaches its glorious, nail-biting outcome. We have witnessed Gallic flair, English optimism and German hubris. And now, everyone, the wait is over. Yes,...

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