Read the room: Five great libraries to explore
From the largest library in the world to Jane Austen manuscripts in Oxford, we highlight five reading rooms that will keep bookworms happy for hours.
Discover more about the Lake District and Beatrix Potter at the Armitt, or see the desk Jane Austen wrote at in the British Library. Whether you are researching an author, visiting an exhibition or just browsing, these five libraries are filled with books, manuscripts, music, photographs and maps, a treasure trove of literature and history to sate the most enquiring of minds.
The collections span the centuries from early times to the digital age, housing millions of books, manuscripts, music and maps covering virtually every subject. They chart the global and historical influence of Scots at home and abroad, while also recording and reflecting the ideas and cultures of the world. There is a regular programme of free exhibitions and displays throughout the year and a comprehensive events programme.
Set in the home and working estate of Jane Austen's brother, Chawton House Library is a registered charity with a unique collection of books focusing on women's writing in English from 1600 to 1830. The library holds early editions of works by women, including Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, many of the works are rare and in some cases unique.
Established as an independent institution in 1973, the British Library is the largest library in the world, with well over 150 million items in its collection. In addition to newly published books, the library is home to several manuscripts of historic significance, from Beowulf to Magna Carta. Highlights include Shakespeare's first folio, the world’s earliest maps and Michelangelo’s anatomical illustrations. The museum also has an exciting exhibitions programme, which draws upon its own collections and loans from elsewhere.
Combining 28 different divisions, the Bodleian is the largest university library system in the UK. The Old Bodleian is also a major visitor attraction, drawing over 300,000 visitors a year with its programme of temporary exhibitions. Along with Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire, it also houses a collection of manuscripts written by Jane Austen.
Reflecting the social history and development of the Lake District, the Armitt Museum and Library houses books, records, photographs and artworks related to the area and spanning hundreds of years, exploring the impact of the environment on writers from Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter, and vice versa.
The more you see, the more we do.
The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.