The manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance are rich resources for understanding the historical and literary culture of the British Isles. The British Library’s collections include key sources for politics, law, and society before 1600, alongside outstanding works of literature such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

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

Independent woman: Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

If you live in the United Kingdom, you may be aware that 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which for the first time gave some women in Britain the right to vote. The commemorations...

A mammoth list of Digitised Manuscripts hyperlinks

Saturday, January 27, 2018

We have been hard at work here at the British Library and we are excited to share with you a brand new list of Digitised Manuscripts hyperlinks. You can currently view on Digitised Manuscripts no less than 1,943 manuscripts and...

Doctoral Students Open Day – Pre-1600 Collections

Monday, January 22, 2018

A reminder for PhD students with research interests relating to the ancient, medieval and early modern worlds: the British Library’s Doctoral Open Day for our pre-1600 collections will take place on 5 February 2018. The day is aimed at first-year...

The Carolingian quest for the correct text of the Bible

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The British Library was recently abuzz with the news that Codex Amiatinus — the oldest surviving copy of the complete text of the Latin Vulgate Bible — will be returning temporarily to Britain in 2018 for our Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition....

More blog posts

Related events

Exhibition

Harry Potter: A History of Magic

-

Journey to where magic and myth began

View all events

Over 500 collection items from the British Library and institutions across Europe

The Forest Charter of 1225

Date: 11 February 1225

The Devonshire Manuscript

Date: 16th century

A southern English bestiary

Date: 13th century

Beowulf

Date: c. 1000

Chronicon Anglicanum

Date: 1200-99

Library experts

Dr Claire Breay

Head of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts

Dr Scot McKendrick

Head of Western Heritage Collections

Dr Kathleen Doyle

Lead Curator, Illuminated Manuscripts

More staff members