Our history

The John Rylands Library was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband John Rylands, who died in 1888.

The building and collections

The following year Enriqueta commissioned the architect Basil Champneys to design the Library, which took ten years to build and opened to readers and visitors on 1 January 1900. Enriqueta was closely involved in the design and construction of the building, and in the simultaneous development of the collections.

In particular, she was personally responsible for purchasing the two foundational collections: the incomparable collection of printed books assembled by the 2nd earl Spencer (which she bought for £210,000 in 1892) and the earl of Crawford’s collection of manuscripts (costing £155,000 in 1901).

The John Rylands Library is one of the finest examples of neo-Gothic architecture in Europe and is indisputably one of the great libraries of the world. The library became part of The University of Manchester in 1972. It now houses the majority of Special Collections of The University of Manchester Library, the third largest academic library in the United Kingdom.

John Rylands Research Institute and Library

The John Rylands Research Institute was created in 2013. Since its inception, the Institute has gained both national and international recognition.

It has been involved in attracting grants to support research on the collections from funders including the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Leverhulme Trust, British Academy and Marie Curie Foundation.

In addition, generous philanthropic donations from Amin Amiri, David Shreeve, The Soudavar Memorial Foundation and Mark Younger, amongst others, have helped to support a range of important projects.

In March 2021 The John Rylands Research Institute and the University’s iconic John Rylands Library forged an exciting new partnership as the John Rylands Research Institute and Library. The renaming signaled much closer collaboration between researchers and Library staff, in order to promote more effectively world-class research and public engagement with research, based on the remarkable special collections of The University of Manchester Library.