The John Rylands library was built as a memorial to a husband, from a wife, in the late 19th century. It now is part of the University of Manchester and is open to the public. The building is Victorian Gothic and is really beautiful, almost church-like with stained glass windows in the main reading room and vaulted ceilings.
When we went there were several temporary exhibits including one on Charles Dickens and one on the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, with personal correspondence, newspaper articles and a few movie props as well. Their permanent exhibits include some ancient Egyptian papyri, some of which they believe are the first written copies of the Bible though it's only fragments of pages. They have an illuminated hand written copy of the Canterbury Tales along with a plain copy.
The architecture alone is worth a visit. The staircase has an elaborate ceiling and also has a few old printing presses for examination. It was a very interesting place to visit. Doesn't charge an entry fee and there is a small cafe and shop. They have lifts and accessible toilets.
While it isn't exactly off the beaten track, as it's on Deansgate, one of the main streets through Manchester centre, it's not somewhere that a lot of tourists visit but if you're interested in architecture it's worth a stop and some of the exhibits are really interesting too.
Visitors can see the library:
Monday 12noon - 5pm
Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm
Sunday 12noon - 5pm
Readers and researchers most days until 5.
Chetham's Library is off the beaten path. I'd never heard of it and neither had my boyfriend who has lived in Manchester all his life. Most visitors to Manchester may see the John Ryland's Library on Deansgate in their travels but Chetham's, a medieval library which is part of the School of Music, is not something you'd walk past. You'd have to know it was there. How did I find out about it? Thanks to the magic of Twitter and a Coronation Street actor that visited it last year!
The School of Music is just across from Victoria train station and the Manchester Cathedral. The building the library is in dates to the 1400s though the library was only founded in the mid 1600s. A Manchester business merchant, Humphrey Chetham, provided for the library in his will.
There are many medieval manuscripts and walls full of old books locked in little cubbyholes, with wooden gates across. There are many rare books and documents and collections but I'm not sure they're all on permanent display. I think perhaps you might have to make an appointment to be shown more than what we saw just walking in. I'm also not quite sure we saw everything that was available as the brochure shows a cloisters, a Baronial Hall and Audit Room. I believe you would probably have to make an appointment to see more and also you must make an appointment to use and access the books and documents for study, mainly because they have only a few staff members on hand to assist but the library is free to use without any membership.
The library is free to visit and is interesting to see. The reading room has a little alcove with windows on three sides and a table in the middle. Karl Marx and Frederich Engels were known to have used the library and work in the alcove in the lovely reading room.
THE RYLANDS HAS CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS THROUGHOUT 2005. During this time it will be extended and given the copper roof as orginally envisaged by the architect.
The renowned John Rylands Library is literally a cathedral to learning. The Reading Room, with its vaulted canopy, stained glass windows and reading rooms branching off like side chapels, looks exactly like a Gothic cathedral...but is a purpose-built library dating from 1900 which took advantage of the the latest advances in electrical wiring and central heating.
It's a sumptuous place with fine stone carving and woodwork plus Art Nouveau bronze fittings. They have an incredible collection (it's part of Britain's third largest academic library) and I've seen books by Galileo on display along with hand-coloured prints by William Blake, decorated Buddhist scripture and illuminated medieval Bibles.
location: St Peter's Square, City Center
It's an interesting library building with a domed reading room on the upper floor. Like any other library it's also a great source of information, eg. a lot of travel guides and maps.
When it opened in 1934, this was one of the largest public libraries in the world. This was the first British library to employ women librarians and to establish a children's library service (the oldest children's book is a 400-year-old Latin primer!).
Step inside into the Shakespeare Hall and see how many of his plays you can recognise in the stained glass window.
Then head upstairs and take a look at the awesome domed Great Hall and reading room.
In the basement is the Library Theatre, one of the best in the city. The building is also home to the esteemed Henry Watson Music Library.
Manchester Central library and there are also many libraries throughout Manchester...if you just wanna chill and absorb some literary food, go bus'a hush hush move in one of the many different sections in the central library, everything from magazines /job search to language and culture...rading and info for the infoseeker.
Chetham's Library and School of Music, Long Millgate.
Open weekdays from 9.30 am - 4.30pm. Closed between 12.30 and 1.30pm. Free. Tel: 0161 834 9644.
Behind the Cathedral, is the best kept secret of the city. Chetham's Library is the oldest free public library in the UK. The buildings which were once religious quarters date from 1421, the library was inserted in 1655 and has hardly changed. The bay window of the Reading Room in the 1840s once housed Frederick Engels and Karl Marx debating how to change the world. If you walk further down the corridor from the library you come to a door on the right which leads to the tiny collection of old religious buildings - now the Fox Courtyard. Look down one of the holes in the well cover in the centre and see a fox, which once fell down there, glaring back. The school is a school of music and on Wednesdays in term time you can get a free tour of all the buildings with a concert thrown in.
As a student, I love the John Rylands Library. Its massive and if you've got lots of time on your hands and love reading, that's the place to hang out. Other great places include the University Museum (Small but FREE Admission), Arndale Centre, Trafford Centre (Take a bus from Piccadilly Gardens) and Castlefield.