Explore the Library
Housed in an extraordinary Neo-Gothic building, The John Rylands Library is home to one of the world’s richest and most unique collections of books, manuscripts, maps, works of art and objects. We aim to connect people to our fascinating collections and breath-taking building.
Explore the building
For many visitors, the building is everything. Discover more about our architecture, history and what to expect when you visit:
The Historic Reading Room
The Historic Reading Room resembles the layout of a church; however the alcoves in this purpose built library were designed for private study. The glass in the high windows was chosen to let light in, but obscure the view to the outside. Today, anyone can study in these inspirational spaces or wander the room to marvel at the beauty and peaceful nature of the space.
This room is named after the Crawford Manuscripts Collection. Enriqueta Rylands, the founder of the Library purchased the collection in 1901 from the Earl of Crawford’s family for £105,000.
The collection contains more than 6,000 hand-written manuscripts in over 50 different languages.
Mrs Rylands wanted both the Crawford and Spencer Rooms to be used as a public lending library.
Today, the rooms are home to items from the Library's collections, including rare books and sculpture.
This room is named after the Spencer Collection of books, one of the founding collections of the Library.
Enriqueta Rylands, the founder of the Library purchased the collection in 1892 from the fifth Earl Spencer for £250,000.
The Spencer family are the ancestors of Lady Diana Spencer – better known as the Princess of Wales.
The collection includes many rare books, produced before printing was commonplace in Europe.
The Rylands Gallery
You can explore the Library’s collection in more detail in the Rylands Gallery. Our collections stretch far beyond books; we hold over 1.4 million items including manuscripts, archives, maps, works of art and objects.
In this gallery we aim to give you a glimpse into our collections.
Historic Entrance Hall and Main Staircase
Step back in time to see where readers would have originally entered the Library. With breath-taking architecture and spectacular stonework you can experience the wonder of this Neo-gothic masterpiece.
The original Victorian toilets can be found down the stairs from the Entrance Hall. These toilets are unchanged since 1900 and still in use. Access is via the stairs only.
The main staircase leads up to the beautiful Historic Reading Room and provides stunning views of the Gothic architecture of the Entrance Hall below and the Lantern Gallery above.
View our gallery
Can I take photographs?
Photography is allowed in the Library, except in the exhibition galleries. You must not use flash or tripods anywhere in the building. We do have special sessions for photographers.