The British Library

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96 Euston Road, London, United Kingdom
020 7323 8000

The British Library London Reviews

WalterC WalterC
316 reviews
Definitely worth checking out! Apr 21, 2015
Located near King’s Cross station, the British Library has a small museum that basically tells the history of writing, which contains some valuable and interesting treasures.

There is a statue of a naked Sir Isaac Newton in front of the building, which does look like a typical library building. When going inside, the museum exhibition is located on the left side.

The exhibition part is dimly lit, probably to help preserve the old manuscripts, which are very sensitive to light. As a result, photography is not allowed at all. A disappointment for sure, but at the same time, I can understand why the rule is in place!

There are a bunch of religious texts, such as the Koran and gospels from the Bible, on display from different time periods, which basically takes you through the history of writing and printing. From the times when it was done by hand, to when it was produced by the printing press, an invention by Gutenberg. He made it possible to mass produce the copies of Bible in different languages, whereas before, it was only in Latin.

Some of the other items include earliest copies of “Alice In Wonderland” and other books, works by William Shakespeare, and song lyrics by the Beatles, among others. Plus some old maps and globes as well.

The Magna Carta was suppose to be on display, but when I was there, it was somewhere else for a special exhibition. That would have cost money, so I did not see it.

As someone who likes to write and read, and still prefers to write journals by hand, this was an interesting place for me. Though not quite a must-see, as it is a small museum. But I think it is worth a look for anyone who likes to look at old manuscripts and first copies of famous copies. Plus admission is free, and definitely not a waste of time.

Also, it is open late (until 8pm) on some days of the week, so definitely something to do when every other attraction is closed by that time of day.

Check the web site for more info.
British Library
statue of Sir Isaac Newton
inside the British Library
entrance to the exhibition
4 / 4 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
WalterC says:
I spent about 45 minutes there. And photos are not allowed!
Posted on: Jul 03, 2015
trippin_jen says:
Informative! How long did you spend there? Do you also have pictures of the library itself? Or no photos allowed?
Posted on: Jul 02, 2015
cotton_foam says:
Posted on: Jul 02, 2015
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joseph98 joseph98
103 reviews
Some of Britain's most valuable treasures Sep 23, 2013
It may not have quite the dizzying array of priceless artefacts that the British Museum does, but the British Library has its fair share. The obvious draw is the original Magna Carta, but literary types are sure to appreciate Shakespeare's first Folio and manuscripts of other iconic writers. Equally exciting are the handwritten Beatles lyrics, and listening stations allow you to not only hear the Fab Four but such curiosities as Thomas Edison making the first ever recording of sound.
Photo courtesy of Steve Cadman
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
frivolousat25 frivolou…
16 reviews
Plan to spend atleast half a day Apr 15, 2011
The Library has amazing treasures! Its a enormous collection & needs quite some time to do justice to it.

Definitely plan to spend a huge chunk of your day being "wow-ed" by everything :)

There are two cafeterias in the building so you don't have to go anywhere to grab a bite!

Its about 2 blocks from the King's Cross tube station.
sarahelaine sarahela…
648 reviews
The Treasures of the British Library/ Magnificent Maps Jun 29, 2010
The British Library is a copyright library, holding one copy at least of every book that was ever published in the UK, as long as there still are copies. That alone is enough to get my pulse racing. But somehow, until now, I hadn’t realised that they had an exhibition space that you could just wander into without having some reason to research. And it is stunning.

At the moment, there are two main exhibitions on in the gallery space. One is on maps, and the other is an exhibition of some of their treasures. The map exhibition is temporary until September (I think) 2010, and the other one I think is more or less permanent.

I started my visit at the map exhibition, which is fascinating. They have a reproduction of the Hereford Mappa Mundi, which is a medieval map and encyclopedia. It wasn’t meant to be particularly accurate in terms of coast, so much as ideas – it was a way of showing the world view rather than the world. I’d also never have understood what was going on with it if I hadn’t seen a documentary on it once – east is at the top, and there are lots of strange creatures and biblical scenes included. The map took you through from the incredibly artistic, but somewhat weird, medieval mappa mundi, to the functional maps merchants used from the 18th century, and had some interesting examples of propaganda maps. It was very cool, and any travellers who are also history buffs should pop in if they are there before it ends.

But the treasures exhibition was even better. It’s worth noting now that I am a geek about both literature and history, so if I get wildly over excited here then please just come back in a paragraph or two.

The British Library holds – and exhibits, free – some of the most incredible, important, beautiful books I’ve ever seen. For a start, they have a number of astonishingly beautiful bibles that date back to the 12th century, and a fragment of a dead sea scroll that is from the 3rd century AD. There are some ancient, and incredibly beautiful, Korans and Hebrew texts too, and some astonishingly lovely and well preserved Hindu sutras. The illustrations and the calligraphy are (in my case at least) utterly and literally breathtaking. There are very early examples of Chinese printing, still beautiful, and a copy of the Guttenberg bible and a set of fables printed by Caxton, which represents the beginning of both printing and popular literacy in Europe. The Persian texts they have are amazingly beautiful. More recent texts include handwritten drafts of Jane Eyre and Tess of the Durbervilles. And Wordsworth, although regular readers may recall that I do not much care for Wordsworth so that was less exciting.

There is also a copy of the Magna Carta, which was the document where the English Barons forced King John the First to acknowledge that people have rights. It was pretty rudimentary as human rights acts go – certainly nothing about banning torture or treating prisoners fairly, but it was one of the earliest attempts at holding authority to account in Europe and laid the foundations for parliament, even if actual democracy took another few centuries. And it is very old, and really impressive.

Access to the exhibition spaces is free, and they open quite late – the website is There is a nice garden, with a little café, and of course there is the library itself. Which has a copy of almost every book ever, and people can register as readers and browse the library’s collection. Just being in the same building as all that knowledge makes me feel a little like fainting, and slightly cleverer.
British Library
Newton Statue
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
sarahelaine says:
there's a cafe with muffins there, and a really nice Italian restaurant just round the corner, if either of those help!
Posted on: Jun 30, 2010
fransglobal says:
Very interesting, thanks. Never been there. Must go. Just so many must sees in London.

I'm not going though if there's no sausage stall or Sachertorte...
Posted on: Jun 30, 2010

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