17 Jan A Beautiful Manchester Treasure: The John Rylands Library
I love living in Manchester – it has some amazing places.
One of my favourite hidden haunts is the John Rylands Library. When my friend, Anna Whitehead, who worked there offered me a personal private behind-the-scenes tour, I jumped at the chance. Here’s what she has to say about the libary:
“John Ryland was a Manchester cotton merchant who became enormously wealthy through the expansion of Manchester during the industrial revolution. When he died he left his wife Enriquetta a very wealthy widow. In the spirit of Victorian philanthropy, Enriquetta commissioned the building of a library in her husband’s name.
The library has since become known as not only a world class academic resource, but also a stunning example of Victorian gothic architecture which has remained in almost pristine condition since it opened on 1st January 1900. It was the first building in Manchester to be built with electricity (only connecting to the national grid in the 1960’s), air conditioning, and central heating.
It was Enriquetta’s intention that it should be a free resource for the people of Manchester to have access to books and an opportunity to study and learn. Since 1972 the library has been part of Manchester University, holding it’s special collections. Entry and membership is free for members of the public, not just university students and it continues to be enjoyed by local and international visitors.”
Our tour began in the magnificent Reading Room.
I just love the spines of old books. Seeing them all lined up there together. Ahhhhh.
There are ornate stone carvings on nearly every pillar and doorpost and each is unique – there are no replicas throughout the entire building! What amazing craftmanship.
Enriquetta was a perfectionist in regard to the detail of all the fittings and furnishings of the building. Here are four designs of chairs presented to her for choosing the best style:
The original light fixtures from 1900.
Walking around with Anna, I kept thinking this must be an absolutely amazing place to work. These are their Actual staff toilets!
Some more beautiful old book spines.
Taking a turn out of the public areas and descending some private stairs brought us to the basement, where all the archives are kept. We weren’t able to see the most valuable ones, which are more safely guarded, but it was fascinating to see row upon row and shelf upon shelf of beautiful old books. I love old books.
If only I had handwriting like that… sigh.
And marbled pages
All sorts of strange objects were lurking in corners.
I actually lost track of where we were in the backstage Archives den. There were a lot of floors.
We ended our tour at a separate private study area…
… with more beautiful old books.
You can book onto a tour yourself: call 0161 306 0555 for more details.