17 Fascinating Artifacts Found in the British Library

17 Fascinating Artifacts Found in the British Library

Founded in 1973 and located in London, the British Library is the official national library of the United Kingdom. It also has the most impressive collections ever compiled. Inside are ancient manuscripts, first editions of famous thinkers, maps, puzzles, and even stranger things. For convenience, the majority of the British Library collections have been digitized and made available online. Let’s take a look at the interesting historical artifacts in the British Library together.

1. A notebook by Leonardo Da Vinci

There are few valuable examples of the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, who did most of his work in the 15th century. One of them is in the British Library. Referred to as a notebook but actually a collection put together after Da Vinci’s death, the Codex Arundel contains Da Vinci’s thoughts on a wide variety of topics, diagrams for future inventions, and even a few personal notes.

2. The Klencke Atlas, one of the largest atlases in the world


The Klencke Atlas is of great historical importance and is also notable for its size. Atlas was written by Johannes Klencke in 1660 as King II. presented to Charles. This atlas is one of the largest examples ever to exist. Atlas has been digitized by the British Library for convenience.

3. Miniature pocket globe in leather case with celestial maps


Pocket globes were very fashionable in the late 17th century. More for educational purposes than any practical use, the globe was a map of the world that could be easily moved to any point. The pocket globe in the British Library was made by German cartographer Johann Baptist Hormann. Also, hidden inside the sphere is another model of the solar system with a small sun at its centre.

4. The only surviving original example of a screenplay by Shakespeare

Sir Thomas Moore’s Book is Shakespeare’s only work available in a behind-the-scenes format. The play wasn’t discovered until long after Shakespeare’s life, and so it was not fully known for many years how much Shakespeare contributed to the story.

5. The world’s first postage stamp


The British Library’s collection also includes the world’s first postage stamp. The stamp in question “Penny Black”, dating back to 1840, is a historically significant item. Before Penny Black, recipients had to pay for letters, not senders. The advent of the stamp has made it much easier to send things by mail. Mail soon became a part of everyday life, both in the UK and around the world.

6. Illustrated manuscript of “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll


On a hot summer day in 1862, Charles Dodgson told Alice Liddell and her sisters an impromptu story in which she was the main character. Later, the girls loved the story so much that they asked Dodgson to write it as soon as possible. Over the next two years, Dodgson handwritten the story Alice’s Adventures Underground and later gave it to Alice as a gift. Later, Dodgson changed his pseudonym to “Lewis Carroll” and updated his story to the much-loved Alice in Wonderland. The original version of the story, written in the author’s own handwriting, is in the British Library.

7. The only surviving manuscript copy of Sir Thomas Malory’s ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’

Le Morte d’Arthur is a literary work with a rather interesting story. Written by Sir Thomas Malory while he was in prison in 1469, the work is a compilation and translation of several English and French poems telling the story of King Arthur. Le Morte d’Arthur is the foundation of all modern Arthurian legend and is a work that contains all the classical components. The work includes the Knights of the Round Table, the search for the Holy Grail, and romance. Of course, as the title suggests, the story also ends with Arthur’s death. The British Library copy of the work, which did not appear until 1934, is the only surviving manuscript of Malory’s work.

8. Henry VIII’s songbook

This songbook from 1518 is a valuable work in every sense. This work in the British Library is a real treasure. The manuscript contains more than a hundred compositions, including 20 original songs and 13 instrumental pieces composed by the king himself. Talented VIII, who received a musical education in his youth. Henry’s songbook also includes many pieces by other contemporary musicians.

9. Chinese divination bone

Some items in the British Library are covered in written words, but still technically they cannot qualify as books. The Chinese oracle bone, believed to have been carved between 1300 and 1050 BC, is an example of these artifacts. The Chinese oracle bone is also one of the oldest in the world. In the Shang Dynasty, questions about the future were written on oracle bones and then heated until they cracked. The patterns left behind by the fracture were then interpreted for the future.

10. A puzzle map from 1766

John Spilsbury, a former apprentice to the Royal Geographer, is believed to be the first person in history to produce the puzzle commercially. The idea was that students could consolidate their geography knowledge by putting the removed countries back in their correct places. Over time this turned into puzzles made from any old image and a fun activity.

11. American tax stamps


Tax stamps from 1765 are an American artifact printed by the British Government intended for collection by the British Crown and now in the British Library. The stamps in question were the physical manifestation of the Stamp Act of 1765, a law unpopular enough to spark the American Revolution. Before all this, the protest against the law was so violent that it was repealed after just a few months. This has made stamps an extremely rare item.

12. English first edition guide for all sports

In 2007 the British Library purchased the first English-language print guide for any sport genre. However, this was not the original of the work. First published in France under the title De Arte Natandi, the brochure was translated into English a few years later as A Brief Introduction to Learning to Swim. This leather bound manual is outdated from use and is the only known copy of the work. Includes text and illustrations by Everard Digby offering advice, tips and tricks for diving into a body of water.

13. A letter written by the young James Joyce


Known as one of the greatest names in Irish literature, James Joyce published all kinds of novels, short stories, poems and essays during the first few decades of the 20th century. Long before he became famous, 18-year-old Joyce wrote a letter in 1900 that is now stored in the British Library. The letter in question was a reply to William Archer, the English translator of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, who wrote to thank Joyce in return for a positive review.

14. Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley’s hair


There are other things in this library besides books. The British Library is home to a few items that certainly have literary value, though they don’t contain any words or phrases, like Percy Bysshe’s and Mary Shelley’s hair. The hair and some of Percy Bysshe’s ashes were taken by Mary’s half-sister Claire Clairmont some time after they both died. Percy Bysshe is best known for her poem “Ozymandias,” while Mary is best known as the author of Frankenstein.

15. “Double Pigeon”

The typewriter, whose name is “Double Pigeon”, was made by the Chinese in ancient times. More than a century after the typewriter became popular in other countries, a design was finally invented that could effectively type several thousand Chinese characters on a sheet of paper. Double Pigeon typewriters, which became widespread in the Maoist era, are becoming increasingly rare today. The British Library has one example of this typewriter from 1975.

16. An advertisement for the daughters of the clergy attended by the Bronte sisters

The front page advertisement of an 1824 copy of the Leeds Intelligencer for the “School of the Daughters” is kept in the British Library. The ad both promotes the newly established school and talks about the need for more funding. The following year, four of the Bronte sisters would attend the Priest’s Daughter School. However, a typhoid epidemic that began in 1825 killed the oldest siblings, Maria and Elizabeth. The epidemic caused Charlotte and Emily to drop out of school as well. Charlotte then began to write Jane Eyre.

17. A 1900 video of children playing leapfrog


A short video of a few kids playing “leap-off” in Yorkshire is important for two reasons. First of all, the video recorded in 1900 is one of the oldest movie segments still in existence. Secondly, the video is also one of the earliest recorded examples of the game itself. At the time of recording, leapfrog was not yet common and would become a schoolyard game in the years after recording.

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