Treasures of the British Library

I am recently back from London where I visited the British Library's Sir John Ritblat Gallery. Among its treasures are the Magna Carta, the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare's First Folio, and the only remaining medieval manuscript of Beowulf.

There's nothing like seeing rare books in person but you can't browse through them. Now, for selected items, the British Library allows you to do that online at their virtual books page. Here you can read handwritten books by Lewis Carroll and Jane Austen, examine William Blake's, Mozart's and Leonardo's notebooks, and study the drawings in The Birds of America and the Medieval Bestiary. A "Read" option brings up the text of or commentary for the work (Carroll's handwriting is neatly legible but Jane Austen's is not). A "Listen" option reads the text or commentary to you.

I didn't learn about the treasures on the British Library website from my British Library visit. I learned by looking at the Books and Reading page at You can also find the Complete Works of Shakespeare, the New York Review of Books and dozens of other options there.


Thank you for highlighting the "Books and Reading" page - I never knew that was there, and it's awesome. I thought it was odd that wasn't listed on it, however.

Marvelous to be able to see the virtual books. Thank you.

I would love to see the Magna Carta. Lydia (Lat) and I waited in line at the Henry Ford to see the Emancipation Proclamation, but they closed it down before we could see it. The line was 8 hours long! Looking forward to seeing some of these online and maybe browsing through them. Thanks!

thanks so much for the info!