The John Rylands Library

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150 Deansgate, Manchester, United Kingdom

The John Rylands Library Manchester Reviews

sarahelaine sarahela…
648 reviews
John Rylands Library Dec 21, 2013
The John Rylands library is on Deansgate, Manchester, and it’s a beautiful example of the “I have more money than I know what to do with” school of public buildings. Built by a business man’s widow for the general good of the population, in the ever popular Victorian Gothic style, it is apparently the only public memorial library in the UK. It looks like a little like what would have happened if instead of becoming Batman, Bruce Wayne built a library, but still wanted somewhere to hang around looking brooding. The best thing is, despite technically being owned by the University of Manchester, the terms of the will mean that anyone who wants somewhere to read quietly has every right to tiptoe into the great historic reading room (like a cathedral nave except with bookshelves and little tables), get their book out, and start learning things. Only University of Manchester students can use the wifi code, theoretically, but I don’t know if asking nicely would work.

It hosts a series of exhibitions, currently including one on the history of Polari, the language gay men invented to stay clear of the police in the days before homosexuality was decriminalised; each exhibition lasts a few months. There are also a number of interesting things just sort of kept around the place, including some historic printing presses with signs up saying “don’t touch me if you like your fingers” which seems fair enough. The building is fantastic, with lots of winding stairs and booklined halls. Photographs of the building are actively encouraged, but you’re asked not to photograph the art and books in case of copyright infringement. It’s an absolutely stunning building.

Entrance is free, with a plea for donations. There are lifts and things, but to be honest I got a bit disorientated with all the passages and stairs and I couldn’t tell you if they go to the great hall or not. There is, of course, a gift shop and a café. You can’t miss the library – it’s the dark stone thing like a church between the chain bars and Armani Exchange – and it’s on a lot of public transport links.
4 / 4 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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sarahelaine says:
It does look a lot like Hogwarts in real life too!
Posted on: Nov 14, 2015
christl3 says:
The pictures look like Hogwart's.
Posted on: Nov 13, 2015
spocklogic says:
Great description in imagery - If instead of becoming Batman, Bruce Wayne had built a library!
Posted on: Jan 01, 2014
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Vipin Vipin
691 reviews
A very impressive collection of books! Aug 13, 2011
Housed in a wonderful Gothic building right in the middle of Manchester is this wonderful library which can be visited for free. Apart from the ground floor (which just has the reception, cafe and gift shop), the first floor houses exhibitions and the reading rooms on the third and fourth floors are for seminars and study visits.

The exhibitions on the first floor are very impressive. The King James Bible on display was quite a feature, and as very few first editions must still exist from the time they were produced around 400 years ago, I thought the well-preserved copy here was quite a showpiece. Other highlights included ancient parchments of the old testament and first edition copies of Dickens's Bleak House.

While I was visiting, they had the exhibition entitled From Kashmir to Kandy, which showcased some beautifully preserved texts from countries such as Afghanistan, India and Sri Lanka. Great to see and a decent amount of background info too.

If you are a book person, or enjoy artistic things, I think this library is a very nice visit.
5 / 5 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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Africancrab says:
Thanks for sharing, great review.
Posted on: Dec 08, 2011
davidx davidx
564 reviews
A Mancunian marvel Dec 08, 2011
Some things are hard to believe. I taught for 20 years in a college within 300 yards of the John Rylands Library and never visited it in all that time! Perhaps I was put off by my one visit with an uncle at the age of 14, an age when buildings are not a primary source of interest or excitement. I also feel astonishment that Sarah Elaine's great list of Manchester sights does not seem to include it.

John Rylands was the third son of Joseph Rylands in the firm, Rylands and Sons which was one of the greatest cotton firms in England. Apparently it covered most operations from the mining of the coal needed right through the processes of carding, spinning, weaving and manufacture to the sale of the manufactured goods. He was born in 1801 but died 12 years short of spanning the whole century.

His third wife, Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, 42 years his junior, had a library erected in the centre of Manchester in his honour. According to information in the library, the architect, Basil Champneys, completed the design in a week but it took 10 years to build. Enriqueta Augustina was not the type of lady to leave it all to the professionals and was very much involved in determining the style - wanting something Gothic but not like a church (a difficult concept.) She spared no expense in obtaining archtectural perfection.

The firm suffered much from the decline of the British cotton industry after the first world war and was eventually sold in the 1950s and ceased trading in the 1970s. The library is now part of the University and its specialist collections are still in use.

Following the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, I will not try to describe the building except to say that the cafe that now provides the entrance is not only good for its food but relatively uncrowded, even during the Christmas markets.
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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sarahelaine says:
It will soon- I just hadn't got around to visiting it yet either!
Posted on: Dec 30, 2013
jeminigirl says:
Great photos.
Posted on: Dec 08, 2011
Africancrab says:
Great review, loved the photos.
Posted on: Dec 08, 2011

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