British Library

Top choice library in North London

Consisting of low-slung red-brick terraces and fronted by a large plaza featuring an oversized statue of Sir Isaac Newton, Colin St John Wilson’s British Library building is a love-it-or-hate-it affair (Prince Charles likened it to a secret-police academy). Completed in 1997, it's home to some of the greatest treasures of the written word, including the Codex Sinaiticus (the first complete text of the New Testament), Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks and a copy of the Magna Carta (1215).

The most precious manuscripts are held in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, including the stunningly illustrated Jain sacred texts, explorer Captain Scott's final diary, Shakespeare's First Folio (1623), Gutenberg's Bible of 1455, a copy of The Diamond Sutra in Chinese dating to 868 – the world's oldest block-printed book – as well as handwritten lyrics by the Beatles and the score to Handel's Messiah.


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