John Rylands Library


Fantasy architecture housing ancient texts


image of john-rylands-library

Get there

Public transport: plenty of buses, including ‘pink’/‘green’ free‐bus. Tram ‘Exchange Square’, and ‘Victoria’ train station, are 1/2 mile walk.


Squashed into Deansgate by mediocre contemporary building, John Rylands Library can stop you dead—a cross between factory, castle and church. Inside, through the modern side entrance, are arcades, staircases that wind into gloom, balconies that sprout from the walls, tall rooms where statues watch over visitors. Rylands is a fantasy of red‐stone. At the base of the columns, tourists take photographs. Hushed atmosphere creeps through the arches. Did I mention this is a library of antique books—Rylands has a believed‐oldest New Testament fragment, a Landino issue of Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’, print from the Factory Records scene in Manchester (oddest place to find the best introduction)… Rylands could for a century dig treasure from the vaults. Sadly, the historic toilets seem to be shut forever, and you can’t go high. Otherwise, kin to the Alhambra in Manchester, except no chance for the mosaics and pools it deserves, or the space it was built for. Not stand‐up entertainment, but if you have the most slender of interests, go.