The British Library is more than just a library but a historic institution with collections going back centuries! It is the UK’s national library and the second largest library in the world holding well over 150 million items. It is the perfect place for book-lovers, the literary-minded and history-buffs with treasures that included Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, handwritten notes by Jane Austen as well as the Magna Carta which are displayed in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery (entrance free!).
The British Library receives a copy of every publication in the UK and Ireland and is therefore constantly growing, making it one of the greatest research libraries. In order to access the many volumes & reading rooms, you’d need a reading pass, however, entrance to the British Library as well as the Sir John Ritblat Gallery with all of its treasures is free. It is amazing to just walk around this buzzing place with the impressive King’s Library, a six-storey bronze & glass tower that holds the private collection of King George III, right in the centre.
The John Ritblat Gallery which holds the Treasures of the British Library is close to the main entrance and home to the most incredible treasures of human history. It was amazing to see the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s writings, handwritten manuscripts by Bach, Handel and Beethoven, letters from Galileo, Darwin, Michelangelo to drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci to name just a few of the more than 200 treasures in this gallery. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the John Ritblat Gallery, therefore, I thought I would photograph some of the treasures dotted around the British Museum (see below) and let you discover the gems of the John Ritblat Gallery with your own eyes.
One of the first items you come across is The Tapestry ‘If Not, Not’ by R B Kitaj in the entrance hall of the British Museum. This tapestry took 7,000 hours and 112 kilos of wool to create.
On the second floor is a small gallery leading up to the member’s room which exhibited ‘The Eccles Centre for American Studies: A 25th Anniversary Celebration in Portraits’ when I visited the Library.
The Paradoxymoron by Patrick Hughes on the lower ground floor is an optical illusion, created on a 3-D surface where the bookshelves appear to move when you walk past. While the treasures around the library are fun to look at and a nice way to get to know the library better, they can’t, of course, compare to the treasures that you will discover in the John Ritblat Gallery but I wanted to feature at least a few treasures that I was allowed to photograph.
There are plenty of places to eat within the British Library if you are getting hungry from the Terrace Restaurant (image above) on the 1st floor, the King’s Library Cafe or the coffee shop on the Upper Ground Floor.
Members also have access to a Member’s Room with its own bar, overlooking the King’s Library. Since I love books & history I decided to become a member of the British Library which also gives me free access to their exhibitions. The current exhibition is Harry Potter: A History of Magic that I visited on the same day, however, here again, I was not allowed to take any pictures but if you are a Harry Potter fan this is an excellent exhibition, still on until the 28th of February!
The British Library and the John Ritblat Gallery is open seven days a week and free to visit, well worth to check out whenever you find yourself in the King’s Cross area.
The British Library
96 Euston Road