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Registered users may consult archives in person in the Manuscripts Reading Room under staff supervision. The room is open from 09:30 until 18.50 on Monday to Friday, and from 09:30 until 16.30 on Saturday. Access to archival collections is available for free to all readers holding a University of Cambridge ID card or CUL reader’s card.  

To register to obtain a reader’s card requires university or personal photographic ID and current proof of home address. Temporary tickets valid for one week within any twelve-month period are free of charge. A £5.00 administration charge for 1 month, £15.00 for 6 months, £30.00 for 1 year or £90 for 3 years applies to applicants from non-UK universities and the public. Full details of the admission procedures are available on the Reader Registration department’s webpages.  

For material stored on site, it is not necessary to make an appointment to view items in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Registered users and those intending to register may order items in advance by email or phone or on the day of visit. It is advisable to check the availability of items before visiting. Staff fetch requested items generally within 30 minutes. No fetching is available between 12:45 and 14:00 on weekdays; and users must submit last orders by 12:30 for consultation over the lunch period. No fetching is available after 18:20 on weekdays or on Saturdays. For material stored off site, access requests are facilitated by designated staff and may take 24 hours to fulfil. Catalogues contain details of location and request procedure. 

Staff are always available in the reading room to answer enquiries and to provide guidance on handling material.

When visiting the room, there are a few simple rules which must be observed in the interests of conservation and security:

  • All readers are required to sign a registration sheet at the entry desk to the room.
  • Pencils and laptops only may be used.
  • Any food or drink, including water, is strictly prohibited. 
  • No material issued in the room may be removed from it.
  • Prohibited items must not be brought into the reading room.  They must be placed in the library lockers.  These include, but are not limited to:
  • bags of any kind, including transparent bags, pencil cases, handbags, large wallets;
  • folders, envelopes, document wallets, ring-binders, bound notebooks;
  • outdoor clothing, including coats, hats, scarves, gloves;
  • blades of any kind, including pencil sharpeners;
  • pens. 

Keys are also available at the desk for lockers where prohibited items can be deposited.   

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.

Contact us

Archives and Modern Manuscripts Department
Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR


Phone: 01223 333143


Opening hours

Monday - Friday: 9:30am to 6.50pm (operating in the Manuscripts Room from 5.00pm)

Saturday: 9:30am to 4.30pm, operating in the Manuscripts Reading Room

Sunday: closed