Help us safeguard national treasures

St Cuthbert Gospel
Keeping important items accessible

Special items should be properly conserved and shared with readers and visitors.

Help us build a fund to buy items that might otherwise be lost from public view.

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Head of English and Drama, British Library“An acquisitions fund, supported by donations, allows us to act decisively to purchase collection items of national significance that might otherwise be lost to the nation.”

Jamie Andrews
Head of English and Drama 

We play an essential role in safeguarding the nation’s intellectual heritage by acquiring nationally-important items for our world-class collection. 

In our hands, items of rare or special interest can be preserved for the nation. By keeping items intact and in their original form, new veins of discovery can be opened up for curators, experts and researchers. Our expertise means fragile items can be properly conserved and widely shared in our Reading Rooms

Get us ready for our next challenge!
We cannot be sure when an item may come up for sale or a export request will be raised. We want to build a 'war chest' of funds so that we are ready for the next challenge. Once in private hands items may become unavailable to scholars and the public. Collections become dispersed, and occasionally books can be lost if plates are used for prints. You can help safeguard these items by making a donation today. 


With thanks to all our supporters for their generous contributions to help acquire the Canning Family Archive. We will be sharing updates about this acquisition soon.

Recent literary treasures saved for the nation

Medieval drama manuscript - This illuminated manuscript from the 15th century contains the only surviving complete text for the play, the Mystère de la Vengeance (pictured below). This is the finest surviving illuminated manuscript of any medieval drama. It is now on display in our Treasures Gallery and digital images are available as well.

This acquisition was supported by the Art Fund, the Friends of the British Library, International Partners in memory of Melvin R. Seiden and from the Breslauer Bequest, and other donors. Read our curator's account on this renaissance masterwork of manuscript illumination.

15th-century English-Latin dictionary - The Catholicon Anglicum (pictured below) is a bilingual Middle English-Latin dictionary dating from 1483 and is one of the earliest examples of an English dictionary. We bought this dictionary, following an export bar, because of its close connection with our history and national life, and for its profound importance for the study of the development of both the English language and of English lexicography. 

John Ponet’s personal copy of a 1554 traictise against clerical marriage - This traictise (pictured below) belonged to John Ponet. He was the first married Bishop of Winchester and on this manuscript, published under the name of Thomas Martin, he makes a point-by-point attack upon Martin’s work and defence of his own, filling the blank leaves and margins with manuscript notes in English, Latin and Greek. This manuscript is particularly important for the study of the history of the English Reformation and the adversarial culture of publication in sixteenth-century Europe. The acquisition of this traictise was generously supported by an anonymous donor. 

Read our curator's story on these two magnificent manuscripts. 

Help us save more of such treasures for the nation by making a donation today


Miniature from the Mystère de la Vengeance showing Vespasian being examined in bed by two doctors


Page from the Mystère de la Vengeance 


The Catholicon Anglicum, a 15th-century English-Latin dictionary 


Handwriting from the The Catholicon Anglicum 


An opening from Ponet's book, showing how he had it interleaved to add his own comments 


A page from the printed traictise owned and annotated by John Ponet