I like libraries. It’s socially acceptable, encouraged even, to be quiet in libraries. I much prefer writing to talking in any case.

The John Rylands Library is part of the University of Manchester Library, gifted to Manchester by the widow (and third wife) of John Rylands, Manchester’s first multi-millionaire. Begun in 1889, with architect Basil Champneys designing a neo-gothic building, it was opened to the public on 1 January 1900. It became part of the university’s library in 1972, and now is home to the Special Collections. The building itself has a very church-like feeling, almost like a cathedral of books. Apt, since it is home to a fragment of the St. John Gospel, among other fragments and documents of religious significance.

We visited at the end of November to see the current exhibition (on until 8th March 2020: visit if you get the chance), Seeing the Invisible, which displays medieval Syriac texts of religious and scientific importance. Sadly photos were not allowed of the exhibition, to protect the manuscripts, but I very much liked the bosses in the ceiling, particularly this one with his paws over his ears.

As it’s free to enter the Library, once we had finished looking at the exhibition, we wandered around the rest of the accessible areas. The above statue of Rylands’ widow stands opposite one of John Rylands, at the other end of the main reading room, below the window.