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Treasures of the British Library

London, England

London's massive British Library holds its most precious artifacts in the Treasures Gallery, including early Gospels, the Magna Carta, and other priceless manuscripts.

Complete Video Script

The British Library is the national archive. The statue of Isaac Newton measuring the immensity of the universe symbolizes the library's purpose: to preserve the record of man's endless search for knowledge.

The massive building fills 180 miles of shelving with over 12 million books. For sightseers, only one room matters: the Treasures Room. It showcases early Gospels on papyrus, the first complete New Testament — written in Greek from the fourth century, illuminated manuscripts with pages lovingly illustrated by monks — some of the finest art from Europe's Middle Ages, and the Gutenberg Bible from 1455. Gutenberg's revolutionary movable metal type made printing affordable. By bringing information to the masses, this innovation helped power Europe into the modern age.

The Magna Carta, from 1215, documents the first steps toward government by people rather than kings…and the king was forced to hang his seal on it.

Cases are dedicated to the titans of English literature, showing, for instance, early editions of Shakespeare's plays. You'll see precious musical manuscripts: a hand-written score of Handel's Messiah, a Beethoven work tracing his stormy creative process, and hand-written Beatles lyrics.

Ponder the evolution of maps: In 1350 this view came with Jerusalem at the center. By 1550, with this, you could plan your next trip to England.