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John Rylands Library

Step back in time and admire the large collection of ancient books and manuscripts, as well as the impressive architecture, of this iconic British landmark.

John Rylands Library is part of the University of Manchester. The magnificent Victorian neo-Gothic structure on Manchester’s Deansgate, a main road, looks more like a cathedral or castle than a library. Inside, you’ll find one of the country’s most extraordinary special collections of medieval and religious manuscripts, rare prints and even the personal papers and letters of famous figures.

When entrepreneur and philanthropist John Rylands died in 1888, he was one of Manchester’s most successful industrialists. Two years after his death, Rylands’ wife founded the library, which merged with the University of Manchester library in 1972. The special collections of both libraries is among the largest in the United Kingdom.

Today, John Rylands Library is a perfect stop for an hour or two on a rainy morning or afternoon. From Deansgate, make your way past the historic library to the modern main entrance. Sit down with a book and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, have a drink in the café, or simply wander through the magnificent halls.

Find out how the oldest known piece of the New Testament, the St. John Fragment, found its way into this collection. This tiny scrap of Greek papyrus is believed to be over 1,800 years old. You can also find examples of early European printing and one of the largest collections of prints by William Caxton, including a 1476 edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

The library also offers a program of readings, tours and workshops. Special temporary exhibitions are organized throughout the year and are usually free of charge. Be sure to check the library website for details of the latest events before your visit.

John Rylands Library is best reached by public transport. The nearest bus and tram stops are at St. Peter’s Square and Albert Square. The library is open daily, but closed on Monday and Sunday mornings. There’s no entrance fee. Note that in this building every sound is hushed, so it isn’t the best place to visit with young children.


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