Cambridge University Library

Using the Manuscripts Reading Room

Manuscripts Reading RoomThe Manuscripts Reading Room is open from 9.00 until 18.50 on Monday to Friday, and from 9:00 until 12.30 on Saturday (pre-ordered manuscripts may be read in the Munby Rare Books Reading Room from 13.00 until 16:30). All readers wishing to view manuscript material must have a Cambridge University Library reader’s ticket which allows access to such material. Full details are available on our Admission to the Reading Room page.

It is not necessary to make an appointment to view items in the Manuscripts Reading Room and most of the items held by the Department are available for consultation.  However, some contain material of a confidential nature, and in such cases, various restrictions on access apply. Furthermore, the Library's programme of conservation work may oblige us to make certain items unavailable for limited periods. It is always best to check the availability of any manuscript before visiting the Library.  This can be done either by e-mail or telephone; please see our contacts page for details.

All readers are required to sign a registration sheet at the entry desk to the room.  Keys are also available at the desk for lockers where coats and bags and other items (see below) can be deposited.  Staff at the desk will be happy to help with all enquiries and information.  Please see our Services page for full details of the facilities we offer.  Requests of a specialist nature will be referred to the appropriate staff. Between 12:45 and 14:00 and after 17:20 (17:00 on Fridays) only enquiries of a general nature can usually be answered.

Items for consultation are ordered at the staff desk using the order slips provided.  Items will be fetched as quickly as possible, but at busy times, and especially in the summer months, some delay may be unavoidable. No fetching is available between 12:45 and 14:00; orders for items required during that time should be handed in before 12:30. There is no fetching after 18.20 in the evening.

There are a few simple rules which must be observed in the interests of conservation and security:

  • No pens are allowed. Pencils and laptops only may be used.
  • Certain items cannot be brought into the reading room. They should be placed in the library lockers. These include, but are not limited to:
    • bags of any kind, including transparent bags, laptop cases, pencil cases, handbags and large wallets
    • stationery such as, document wallets, folders, envelopes, ring-binders and bound notebooks outdoor clothing, including coats, hats, scarves and gloves
    • blades of any kind, including pencil sharpeners
    • food or drink, including water
    • scanners
  • The use of cameras is allowed, provided they are hand-held and set on 'silent' (they must not beep or click).  All readers wishing to use a camera must first ask at the desk.
  • Items in this room can be fragile and need to be handled carefully. Leaning on them, placing objects on them when open, or touching the pages other than to turn the page will damage them. Please treat manuscripts respectfully.
  • If the item is bound, use the stands or cushions provided. To keep the volume open at the right page, use the weighted ‘snakes’ (available at the desk).
  • Anything ordered in the Manuscripts Room may only be used in the Manuscripts Room.