skip to content

The Manuscripts Reading Room is open to all readers with a Library readers card.  You can find information about Library membership here

It is not necessary to make an appointment to view items in the Reading Room, but readers are strongly advised to let us know in advance when they are coming and what they wish to see.  This can be done either by e-mail or telephone; please see our contacts page for details.

The room is open from 09.30 until 18.50 Monday to Friday, and from 09.30 to 16.30 on Saturday.  Items for consultation can be ordered in advance.  Please send a message to  Items can also be 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. Fetching is suspended between 12:45 and 14:00; orders for items required during that time should be handed in before 12:30. Fetching finishes for the day at 18.20. 

Only pencils and laptop computers may be used in the Reading Room.  All readers to the Manuscripts Reading Room are required to register when entering the room, and must leave prohibited items in the lockers provided.  These include, but are not limited to: pens, coats, bags of any kind, any items of food or drink, and blades of any kind.  

The desk is always staffed by at least two members of staff who will be happy to help you with ordering items, enquiries and with the other services which are available.  Please go to our Services page for a full list of the services we offer.

Handling guidelines

These guidelines have been drawn up to help you use our collections for research whilst ensuring that they are preserved for future generations of readers. If you are unsure of the safest way to handle archives, manuscripts or rare books, please just ask for assistance from the reading room staff. Always handle Special Collections material with clean dry hands. Please be aware that there is a risk of damage to material from nail polish as it can mark the surface of paper or parchment.

  • Look out for vulnerable areas in bound items, such as loose endbands and cracked hinges, and take extra care where these are observed.
  • Take care when turning leaves and use a page turner where necessary.
  • Use extra support for fold-outs and/or fore-edge flaps.
  • Use snake weights to hold open leaves and restrain unbound material such as unrolled charts and plans. Avoid placing the weight on text areas and where necessary use silicone release paper to protect vulnerable areas.  
  • Use nitrile gloves when handling photographs and hold them at the edges.
  • Do not mark or annotate the leaves of archives, manuscripts or rare books.
  • Only use acid-free paper to flag leaves when needed.
  • Do not drag items across the surface of the table.  Close bound items carefully when you have finished your assessment.
  • Always carry bound items closed and use two two hands to carry all items.>

If you are unsure of the safest way to handle manuscripts or rare books, ask for assistance from the reading room staff.

Book supports, snake weights, page turners, acid free slips, silicone release papers and nitrile gloves are available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.