The Sir John Ritblat Gallery: The British Library's Greatest Treasures Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Sir John Ritblat Gallery: The British Library's Greatest Treasures

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An illuminated book in a library.

One of the permanent galleries at the British Library in London is the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. This houses some of the most important historical pieces of writing still in existence, which makes it a dream come true for historians and literary nerds.

These documents include those of legal and political importance, such as the Magna Carta, those of literary importance, such as William Shakespeare's First Folio, and those of religious importance for all of the major world religions.

The Gallery is accessed by a door to the left in the main lobby at the British Library. It is named, unsurprisingly, after Sir John Ritblat, a successful businessman who was a major benefactor during the 1990s construction of the new, purpose-built British Library building.

The Collection

The collection, which numbers more than 200 books and documents, is divided thematically. The themes, according to the British Library's website (the divisions are less clear in the Gallery itself) are as follows:

A card accompanies each document to explain briefly what you are looking at. The room is dimly lit to avoid damage to the more fragile documents, which means some people with poorer eyesight may struggle to read the cards.

There are also several headphones around the room where visitors can listen to certain recordings, such as three Wilfred Owen poems being read aloud, or songs by The Beatles at the section dedicated to the band.

The Gallery is free to enter and is well-worth a visit for anyone interested in history and literature. You should expect a visit to take a maximum of one hour, but probably less.

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