Welcome to the RBLA

When you get our infamous medieval ‘monks blood’ manuscript under the microscope you can see tiny flecks of gold leaf stuck in the pores of the skin on which it was written. These flecks are evidence for the manuscript originally having been richly decorated.

At some time in its long, long life - it was probably made during the reign of King Richard the Lion Heart or King John, of Magna Carta fame - the manuscript was butchered in order to remove its most highly decorated sections, probably for sale to wealthy collectors as separate works of art.

Forensic investigation like this reveals how manuscripts and books originally appeared. It reveals the individual history of particular works and the attitudes of their makers and owners. It is the type of detective work that you can do at the RBLA.

There are some 35,000 manuscripts, tracts, pamphlets, maps, drawings and photographs in the RBLA special collections. That’s 35,000 hidden histories waiting to be revealed. All 35,000 are listed on the Learning Resources Centre catalogue, so you can browse and search for them in exactly the same way as you would do for other materials. Who knows what you might find?

We are open from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, but because we have limited space in our Reading Room and our service is heavily used it is advisable to arrange your visit before you come. Just email or telephone us and let us know what you would like to see by quoting the item’s Call Number . The Call Numbers are on the catalogue and our email and telephone number are on this website.

Discover, Research, Enjoy

And for more information on the thirteenth century ‘Monk’s Blood’ manuscript of Peter of Capua, have a look at the Thomas Phillips exhibition on this site.