Our vast collection of printed heritage encompasses materials from Britain, Europe and the wider world produced predominantly from the mid-15th century through to the 21st century. The collections cover a range of formats, including books, pamphlets, periodicals, early newspapers, handbills and advertisements.

Collection guides

Rare Books and Music Reading Room in the British Library

Rare Books and Music

  • Find information on the shelves
  • Access online databases and electronic books and journals
  • Order collection items to the Reading Room via our catalogues

If you need help, please ask our Reference Specialists at the enquiry desk, or contact the Rare Books Reference Team or Music Reference Team.

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 – 20.00
Tue – Thu 09.30 – 20.00
Fri – Sat 09.30 – 17.00
Sun & English Public Holidays closed

Opening hours for all Reading Rooms

Blog posts

Hogarth’s London in the 18th century Latin poetry of Benjamin Loveling

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

In 1738 an anonymous book of Latin and English poetry was published ‘by a Gentleman of Trinity College, Oxford’. Its author was Benjamin Loveling (1711-1750?), a clergyman, satirist and one-time rake, who documented his liaisons in the inns and brothels...

Three women accused of witchcraft: a unique pamphlet from the height of the witch craze

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We associate witches with broomsticks, evil potions and fairy tales but we should remember that in early modern Britain witchcraft really was something to fear, especially for those women accused of it. The British Library holds the sole surviving copy...

Using Transkribus for automated text recognition of historical Bengali Books

Monday, October 29, 2018

In this post Tom Derrick, Digital Curator, Two Centuries of Indian Print, explains the Library's recent use of Transkribus for automated text recognition of Bengali printed books. Are you working with digitised printed collections that you want to 'unlock' for...

Recording of the week: a high fidelity direct recording

Monday, October 29, 2018

This week's selection comes from audio engineer Robert Cowlin. Instantaneous lacquer discs frequently contain unique or rare recordings and, due to the instability of their sound carrying layer, are a preservation priority at the British Library Sound Archive. Also known...

More blog posts

Projects

Two Centuries of Indian Print

An international collaboration to digitise South Asian printed books

Transforming Topography

This project aims to transform perceptions of topographical imagery.

King’s Topographical Collection Cataloguing and Digitisation

This project is cataloguing and digitising George III’s collection of around 30–40,000 maps and views.

All projects

Library experts

Adrian Edwards

Head, Printed Heritage Collections

Alison Bailey

Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Dr Karen Limper-Herz

Lead Curator, Incunabula and Sixteenth Century Printed Books

Tanya Kirk

Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1601-1900

More staff members

Shop

Beautiful Bookbindings Philippa Marks

Beautiful Bookbindings

This book by Philippa Marks celebrates over 100 of the most beautiful bookbindings of the last 1000 years.

£30.00

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

Bookscape by James Raven

Bookscape

James Raven reconstructs the communities of printers in London before 1800 using a range of new illustrative and topographical evidence.