The British Library wasn’t on our itinerary until we arrived in London. Let’s just say I’m really glad we made the last-minute decision to make a quick visit to the British Library on our way to the Tower of London, because the library turned out to be a bookworm’s dream.
The highlight of the British Library is no-doubt the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library.
Unfortunately, photos are strictly prohibited inside the gallery, so you will find no photos of the treasures inside. What you will find:
- Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
- Gutenberg’s Bible
- Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook – handwritten
- Darwin’s handwritten notebook
- Handwritten lyrics by the Beatles
- Shakespeare sonnets and plays
- Handwritten music by Handel
- Original sheet music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel etc.
- Original drafts of works by Dickens, HG Wells and Jane Austen
- Letters from Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots
- Magna Carta
- Thomas More’s Utopia
- Rotating exhibitions
- Religious manuscripts
There was a school group in the gallery while we were there, so students were running around gathering answers. Otherwise it was very quiet, and very inspirational. The exhibits are housed in glass cases, and although the gallery is kept darker and cooler to preserve the artifacts, the exhibits are easy to see.
I was very impressed by their collection and presentation; so impressed, in fact, that I was moved to tears. I was humbled and in awe that such important documents lay close enough to touch. Perhaps it’s the English Literature graduate in me talking, but I believe anyone would feel at least impressed by how important these documents are!
Be sure to grab a map so you have a guide, and also bring home a nice souvenir of the place.
The library is FREE to visit, so if your time in London allows, definitely pay the British Library a quick visit. It’s super easy to get to via metro – a short walk from the metro station is all it takes.
There are additional exhibits outside of the Treasures room, and they change every so often, so you might find something else to wow you.
The reading rooms are accessible only with a special reader’s card, which you can obtain, but only if you know the exact work you want to refer to, and if you have a good reason to.
There is a great gift shop, and if you’re a bookworm or history geek this will be your haven. I spent a few pounds on a cute “READERS GONNA READ” book pin.
Tables and chairs (pictured in the panorama below) are strewn about the upper floors, where you can study/rest/work/do whatever you like in this glorious library.
The cafe outside serves great food, and my sister and I plonked another few pounds on a chicken sandwich that we had for a quick lunch.
I highly recommend visiting the British Library if you’re a bookworm, history geek, culture buff or have some time to spare in London.