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

Banned Books Week 2018 has landed: 50 years of creative freedom on the British stage

Monday, September 24, 2018

Or The Misadventures of Slangwheezy, Bawlrot, Bluewink and Leerit Banned Books Week 2018 has arrived and this year our theme is theatre censorship, prompted by the fact that this week sees the 50th anniversary of the laying down of the...

Call for applications now open

Monday, September 24, 2018

Do you know of any collections that are currently at risk and need preserving? The Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting preliminary applications for the next annual funding round – the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is 12 noon...

Cataloguer and Researcher, Early modern English manuscripts

Friday, September 21, 2018

The British Library is undertaking a new project to digitise many of its most important English manuscripts from the period 1500 to 1650. We are recruiting three Cataloguer/Researchers to work on this project, who will use their specialist knowledge of...

The Book of Durrow to be displayed at the British Library

Thursday, September 20, 2018

It is now less than one month until the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition opens at the British Library on 19 October. Today, we are delighted to announce that the Book of Durrow will be on display in the exhibition, on loan...

More blog posts

Related events

Literature events at the British Library

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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