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A visit to the British Library

Nick, one of the Partners at Janet Redler Travel & Tourism, recently visited the British Library in London, which is sometimes overlooked by visitors, but is full of literary and historical treasures.


Many of our travellers from overseas include a few days in London in their trip - and most of them will have visited or know of the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Less well known, perhaps, is the British Library on the Euston Road, hard up against St Pancras and Kings Cross stations, so it’s very convenient for travellers heading north to York or Edinburgh.

Don’t be put off by the rather unexciting exterior of this great place. It was designed and built in the last years of the 20th century and no doubt works well as a library despite its rather dismal appearance!

If you’re dropping off a coat or a bag in the basement take a quick peek at a (very) early printing press - pictured below - where it all began!


Ideally (and if you are a keen student) get yourself registered before your visit, so that you can access all parts of the library, including the iconic Reading Rooms.

But if you have just an hour to spare and if you’re not an academic, it’s still well worth a visit just to enter the "Treasures / Exhibitions", the Sir John Ritblat Gallery where (I can promise) you will see some amazing books and manuscripts.


Besides very ancient texts from the world’s religions e.g. part of a mass book from Saxon times and the Lindisfarne Gospels, plus very early copies of the Talmud and the Qu’ran, there are original manuscript scores of Mozart, Bach and Elgar right through to the Beatles. If you have ever read any Jane Austen, Wordsworth, Sylvia Plath or Ted Hughes, you will want to see letters and draft texts all beautifully preserved and presented.

And, of course, there’s Magna Carta - one of the very few surviving copies. All of these treasures are in one fabulous gallery - free to enter for any visitor without any formalities.

If you have time, wander up a few floors to the Alan Turing Institute, now based in the Library. The Living with Machines project - a collaboration between the Alan Turing Institute and the British Library - is one of the most ambitious humanities and science research initiatives ever launched in the UK.


If you go no further than the entrance, you will see one of the original Enigma Machines, pictured above, which was used by the Nazi forces to send messages to submarines in the Second World War and captured by the Allies. Alan Turing led the amazing team of electrical engineers at Bletchley Park who cracked the secret German codes and began the development of the world’s first computers back in the 1940s.

The British Library is another of those iconic British institutions, completely free to enter and enjoy during your visit to Great Britain!

If you or your group would like to visit the British Library, whether as part of a heritage tour or academic tour or just as part of a tailor-made tour of London, England or the United Kingdom, please do contact our friendly team today.

Read more here about the archives, manuscripts and collections you can discover on a tour of the UK and Ireland.

Tags: England  London  British Library  

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