25th September 2019

Artefact of the Week: John Rylands Library

Whether you’re perusing archives for your dissertation, or want to escape to a quiet space, the John Rylands is a luxurious alternative to withering away in Blue 3
Artefact of the Week: John Rylands Library
Photo: Mdbeckwith @Commons Wikimedia

From the Simon building to The Tower, you’d think the University of Manchester had acquired exclusively ugly buildings. But in Deansgate, beyond the student-hub of the Oxford Road Corridor lies a gem.

The John Rylands library is stunning, and has recently been named as one of the most beautiful libraries in Europe. It is often lazily compared to Hogwarts, but don’t let the possibility of adults running around the library in gowns put you off.

A particular highlight of the building, opened in 1900, is the historic reading room. Open to the public, it’s a study space so beautiful that it almost offsets the stress of pending deadlines. Almost. Partly because who wants to be crying in the background of tourists’ photos?

The library was built by Enriqueta Rylands – in memory of her husband and Manchester’s first multi-millionaire, John Rylands – and designed by Basil Champney. Although it opened its doors for the first time 1900, in 1972, the library merged with the University of Manchester Library, and in 2003 a new entrance wing was created.

The combination of modern and Gothic-style architecture within the entrance is especially pleasing. The tall white walls beautifully exhibit art, while framing some of the original windows and the glass entrance allows the exterior of building to reflect the grandeur within.

It’s easy to feel under-dressed at the John Rylands. In the reading room, there is a temptation to don brown loafers, jewel tones and thick jumpers. Equally, when entering through the modern entrance, it’s easy to feel self-conscious in Primark joggers as you pass Giorgio Armani.

As intended from the Victorian era opening, the John Rylands is an escape from its busy Manchester surroundings. Whether you’re perusing archives for your history dissertation, or just want a quiet wander around somewhere, the John Rylands is a luxurious alternative to withering away in Blue 3.

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