The John Rylands Library is one of the world’s greatest libraries – Manchester’s No. 1 attraction on TripAdvisor – thanks to the astonishing collection that includes first editions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the largest number of works printed by William Caxton, Britain’s first publisher and many of the world’s most valuable bibles, including the 1631 Wicked Bible.
Why do we start the tour at St Ann’s Church? Well, the John Rylands Library was built out of the proceeds of John Rylands’ cotton empire to house his collection of religious works. Rylands and his wife, Enriqueta, were devout Protestants – Congregationalists – we start the tour at Manchester’s Protestant nerve centre, St Ann’s Church. We then nod to the nearby Royal Exchange, the Parliament of the cotton lords in Rylands day, pass the Catholic Hidden Gem before arriving at Rylands.
There, there’s a quick tour of the locale to set the library in context (it was purposely built in what was then the poorest and most violent part of town) before we enter to unveil the library’s history and riches, in particular the St John Fragment, the oldest piece of the New Testament ever found.
* For more information, please see Walks & Tours: John Rylands Library.