“There is no desire more natural than the desire for knowledge.”
Michel de Montaigne
The John Rylands Library in Manchester is housed in a beautifully striking late-Victorian neo-Gothic building on Deansgate. This fine building houses a massive store of knowledge and is commonly acclaimed as one of the best examples of neo-Gothic architecture in Europe.
Mrs Enriqueta Rylands was impressed by the work of Basil Champneys at Mansfield College, Oxford and chose him to create an ambitious memorial to her late husband, John Rylands.
Champneys started design work in 1889. The library took ten years to build, finally opening to the public on 1 January 1900, and cost around £500,000.
Four important elements contribute to the beauty of this great building:
Cumbrian sandstone, known as ‘shawk’, in shades ranging from grey to rose pink;
rich-coloured Polish oak from the Gdansk area;
white moulded plasterwork;
art nouveau style bronze light fittings, radiator grilles and other metalwork.
In addition to its physical beauty, the building was also technologically innovative. It was one of the first buildings in Manchester to be lit by electricity and the original building included an air-filtering system to reduce pollution.
The Library became part of The University of Manchester in 1972 and currently holds the Special Collections of the University of Manchester Library. It now houses over 250,000 printed volumes, and well over a million manuscripts and archival items.
Between 2003 and 2007, the building underwent major refurbishment. A modern entrance wing was constructed and the original historic building underwent major conservation work including the replacement of over 8000 glass roundels in the windows and the construction of a new pitched roof over the Historic Reading Room.
The building is now a beautiful mix of old and new, with both modern and traditional stained glass windows and many original architectural features.
John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH