Once a part of the British Museum, the 18 million–volume collection of the British Library has had its own state-of-the-art home since 1997. The library's greatest treasures are on view to the general public: the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, Jane Austen's writings, and Shakespeare's First Folio. Musical manuscripts by G.F. Handel as well as Sir Paul McCartney are on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. Also in the gallery are headphones with which you can listen to pieces in the National Sound Archive (the world's largest collection), such as the voice of Florence Nightingale or George V or an extract from the Beatles' last tour interview. Marvel at the six-story glass tower that holds the 65,000-volume collection of George III. On weekends and during school vacations there are hands-on demonstrations of how a book comes together, and the library frequently mounts special exhibitions. If all this wordiness gets too much, you can relax in the library's piazza or take in one of the occasional free concerts in the amphitheater outside.
Jun 8, 2003
Even though the library has thousands of volumes and documents, for the average traveler only one room matters. That is the Treasures Room. This is where the Magna Carta, di Vinci's notebooks, and Gutenburg's bible are held. Also, there is an interactive computer display that allows you to look at all the displays from a computer screen. You can zoom in on the Magna Carta or anything else you like. It is extremely interesting. Even if your time is
short, make a stop here. This 30-minute to an hour stop will be worth your time.