First off, it’s free.
Well, libraries do tend to be free. But this one has a special museum literature and history nerds alike will hyperventilate and die over.
Just like every museum in the UK, payment upon admittance isn’t mandatory. You can go as many times as you like and not feel obligated to stay hours upon end. I went in the British Museum around 3 times to dodge crowds. I ran in, saw what I wanted to see, and then left.
The British Library is in an awesome location – right next door to Sr. Pancras International and King’s Cross! It’s super easy to find and near other attractions as well, such as Platform 9 3/4. However, I wasn’t as interested in the library portion – it is very architecturally pleasing and everyone knows that if I love anything, it’s well-made buildings and books. But I wasn’t looking to check out anything, at least not this time.
I ended up going on a weekday morning, hoping to skip the crowds. Sadly, pictures are prohibited, but I took a step back from my fawning and hyperventilating long enough to make a list of some of my favorite things on display.
Here are a few:
First edition 1667 Paradise Lost and Milton’s publishing contract
Jane Austen’s notebooks (I was so excited that I got too close and left a nose print in the glass . . . twice . . .)
Percy Shelley’s handwritten poems
Ian Fleming’s marked up manuscript of The Living Daylights
Second edition Shakespeare
Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches
Michelangelo’s personal letters
Alexander Fleming’s scientific notes and his first time discovering Penicillin
A first edition King James Bible
Original handwritten copies of the Magna Carta
Copy of the Iliad from Florence 1466
Mozart’s manuscripts and original Handel, Bach, and Chopin sheet music.
I spent a good hour there, though it’s not really that big of a museum. The British Library has tons more, from war letters to neckties worn during the bloody Battle of Culloden during the Jacobite revolution in Scotland. There’s a whole section dedicated to the Beatles. Not everything is from Europe – there’s beautiful gold and blue religious manuscripts in Hindi, Persian, and Chinese.
Rumor has it J.K. Rowling’s manuscripts and some first editions will be moved there.
I guess I need to go back to London soon.