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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
City's historic library reopens
John Rylands Library - pic from MEN Syndication
The library has more than 600,000 rare books and manuscripts
A historic library containing one of England's greatest collections of printed books, manuscripts and archives is officially being re-opened.

Broadcaster and journalist Anna Ford, who is co-chancellor of The University of Manchester, will unveil the city's refurbished John Rylands library.

The Grade I listed property on Deansgate was closed for more than three years for the refurbishment.

The library's collection includes a piece of the New Testament from 125 AD.

The neo-gothic building, which was built in the 1890s by Mrs Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her cotton tycoon husband, is regarded as a major visitor attraction as well as being famed as a world-renowned research library.

The collections housed there include medieval illuminated manuscripts, examples of the earliest forms of modern printing including the Gutenberg Bible as well as the personal papers of distinguished historical figures including Elizabeth Gaskell, John Dalton and John Wesley.

St John Fragment - pic from MEN Syndication
The fragment of New Testament dates back to 125 AD

During its closure, many of the library's four million books and manuscripts were stored in a Cheshire salt mine to protect them as the dry and stable atmosphere provided ideal conservation conditions.

The building, which is owned by the University of Manchester, began to deteriorate structurally by the late 1990s causing concern over the collections held inside and leading to the refurbishment project.

About 8,000 damaged glass roundels in the windows were replaced and the two stained glass windows in the historic Reading Room were cleaned and repaired.

Following the renovations, the upper floors of the new building house a purpose-built new Reading Room, a Conservation Studio and state-of-the-art storage areas for the collections.

Bill Simpson, University Librarian and Director of the John Rylands Library, said: "The John Rylands Library is one of the most important rare book and manuscript libraries in the world.

"This project has enabled The University of Manchester to keep the collections in the building created for them over a century ago and to make these treasures accessible to all."


SEE ALSO
Library reveals a 17m facelift
14 May 07 |  Manchester
Library closes for refit
13 Sep 03 |  Manchester

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