The British Library

This is a repository of some of the greatest books and manuscripts in the English language, from the Magna Carta to Beatles lyrics, with everything from Beowulf to Shakespeare to James Joyce in between

The British Library is a bibliophile’s dreamland. The official repository of British books, its collections extend to more than 150 million items, with some 3 million more added annually.

The precious literary wonders on display in its Exhibiton Galleries range from the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays and fire-charred original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Charlotte Brönte neatly penned manuscript for Jane Eyre and James Joyce’s wild pencil scrawling that became Finnegan’s Wake.

There are symphonies by Mozart and Handel, and Paul McCartney’s hand-written lyrics to “Yesterday,” Leonardo da Vinci's notebook and letters written by Elizabeth I, Sir Isaac Newton, and Jane Austen, an original Gutenburg Bible nestled amidst the dozens of illuminated manuscripts from various eras (and cultures), and two (count 'em: two) of the only four surviving copies of the Magna Carta (those are kept in a vault-like side room).

In a case devoted to captains courageous, alongside Capt. James Cook’s journal from his second circumnavigation and the ship’s log of the Victory laconically recording the death of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, lies the personal diary of tragic hero Capt. Scott, who successfully made it to the South Pole...but not quite all the way back. Found along with the frozen bodies of Scott and his teammates, the diary lies open to the page of his final entry: “For God’s sake look after our people.”

There is also a great gift shop where you can pick up wonderful items for the book-lovers in your life.

Tips & Links

British Library details


96 Euston Road (next to King's Cross and St Pancras train stations)

Tel. +44-(0)843-208-1144


Mon & Wed–Fri 9:30am–6pm, Tues 9:30am–8pm Tues, Sat 9:30am–5pm, Sun 11am–5pm




Tube: King's Cross/St Pancras, Euston, Euston Square
Bus: 10, 30, 59, 63, 73, 91, 205, 390, 476
Hop-on/Hop-off bus: Black

How long does The British Library take?

Planning your day: The mildly curious will spend at least 25 minutes cheking out the Yesterday Lyrics, Magna Carta, and other marquee exhibits. Bibliophiles will spend at least an hour.

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in November 2013.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.