Medieval manuscripts blog

14 April 2011

Using our medieval manuscripts

The British Library is one of the world's greatest research libraries. It currently holds an estimated 14 million books, together with vast numbers of manuscripts, newspapers, maps, stamps and sound recordings. The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, but it serves users worldwide -- this blog is currently viewed by people from all parts of Europe (including Greece, Finland and Romania), from North and South America, and from as far afield as China, Japan and Morocco.

The British Library building at St Pancras and the sculpture of Sir Isaac Newton. 

The new British Library building at St Pancras was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1999

Many of you reading this blog may never need to visit London. But for those of you who do, here are three handy tips on using our medieval manuscripts:

1. Admissions

All users of our Reading Rooms at St Pancras require a reader pass. In addition, we ask that first-time users of our medieval manuscripts bring with them a letter of recommendation from someone familiar with their work, outlining the nature of their research and the items they wish to consult. Many of our manuscripts are exceedingly old and fragile, and so we place restrictions on their usage in order to safeguard them for future generations.

2. Ordering manuscripts

Manuscripts can be ordered in advance via our Integrated Catalogue. (Click on Request list, then Manuscripts Collection, and go from there.) This can save time if you are travelling to London from a great distance, and only have a limited opportunity to use our Reading Rooms. We regret that some manuscripts will occasionally be on exhibition or undergoing conservation. Please contact for further information. We cannot guarantee that users will always be able to see specific items, but most of our manuscripts will be available for consultation most of the time.

3. Reproductions

Reproductions of our collection items can be ordered online via our Imaging Services. You can also view images of some of our manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts site. For those of you interested in medieval and Renaissance decoration, the British Library's Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts is a rich resource containing descriptions and select images of many of our most famous manuscripts.

We look forward to seeing you in London, or to sharing our collections with you online.


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