Interior of Rylands staircase

Explore the Library

The John Rylands Research Institute and 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

Historic Reading Room‌The 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. Please be mindful of those who are studying in these spaces.

The Rylands Gallery and St John Fragment

You can explore the Library's Special Collections in more detail in the Rylands Gallery. Our collections stretch far beyond books; we hold over 6 million items including manuscripts, archives, maps, works of art and objects.

You can view some of the highlights from our collections in the Rylands Gallery, which is refreshed with different content throughout the year.

St John Fragment

Find out more about the St John Fragment:

Crawford Room

This room is named after the Crawford Manuscripts Collection. Enriqueta Rylands, the founder of the Library purchased the collection in 1901 from the 26th Earl of Crawford for £155,000. The collection contains more than 6,000 hand-written manuscripts in over 50 different languages.

Enriqueta 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.

Spencer Room

This room is named after the Spencer Collection of books. Enriqueta Rylands, the founder of the Library purchased the collection in 1892 from the fifth Earl Spencer, for £210,000. The Spencer family are the ancestors of Lady Diana Spencer – better known as the former Princess of Wales.

The collection includes many rare books, produced before printing was commonplace in Europe.

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 Main Staircase‌The 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.

Can I take photographs?

Visitors to the Rylands are permitted to film and photograph themselves, friends and family. Photographs must be for personal, non-commercial use. For the safety of our visitors, and to protect the historic building, the use of flash and tripods is not permitted. Please be mindful of the privacy and enjoyment of other visitors when taking photographs in the building. On your visit our staff may approach you to ask the purpose of your photography or filming, or to ensure you are following our guidance.

Many of our collections are subject to copyright restrictions and cannot be photographed. Please check signage in gallery spaces for further details or ask our staff. Many of our collections are digitised and available online.