Faith and religions

Study magnificent hand-painted books and manuscripts from the many faiths and religions of the world.

The British Library’s collection comprises some of the most beautiful, handwritten and illuminated sacred texts from many of the world’s religions. These include religions commonly practised in the UK and lesser-known faiths and spiritual belief systems observed across the globe.  In addition the collection contains printed editions, both early and modern, devotional pieces, and a range of paintings and prints.


Codex Sinaiticus

Codex Sinaiticus f.244v-245. Open at St Luke's Gospel, chapter 22, 20-71 chapter 23, 1-13

Produced in the middle of the 4th century, the Codex Sinaiticus is one of the two earliest Christian Bibles.

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Lindisfarne Gospels

Lindisfarne Gospels f.211

Written and illustrated probably by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 to 721, the Lindisfarne Gospels is amongst the British Library's greatest artistic, linguistic and religious treasures.

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Ethiopic Bible

Ethiopic Bible:image showing Saint Luke and Saint John the Evangelists, f.125v

The Ethiopic Bible comprises a total of 84 books and includes some writings that were rejected or lost by other Churches.

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Gutenberg Bible

Title page of the Gutenberg Bible

Johann Gutenberg’s Bible is probably the most famous Bible in the world. It is the earliest full-scale work printed in Europe using moveable type.

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Henry Vlll Psalter

Henry Vlll Psalter. The illustration shows King Henry Vlll siting in his ante-chamber reading his Psalms, f.3

Written and illuminated in 1540 by an emigré from the court of the French king Francis I, King Henry VIII’s Psalter is Jean Mallard’s most lavish production.

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The Four Gospels in Armenian

The Four Gospels, Armenia

This impressive 310-page manuscript was written in 1166 by an Armenian monk called Simeon. It’s a masterpiece of calligraphy using the distinctive letter forms of the Armenian alphabet, which celebrated the 1600th anniversary of its invention in 2005.

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Sultan Baybars' Qur'an

Sultan Baybars' Qur'an, f.1v-2

This seven-volume Qur'an was produced in Cairo for the Mamluk Sultan Baybars by the calligrapher Muhammad ibn al-Wahid and a team of illuminators.

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Hajj pilgrimage certificate

Hajj Pilgrimage Certificate Add. MS 27566

This beautiful scroll attests that Maymunah, daughter of Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Zarli, made the pilgrimage to Mecca and visited the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in 1432-3 (836 in the Islamic calendar).

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The Golden Haggadah

Golden Haggadah, f.4.

The haggadah is the service book used in Jewish households on Passover Eve to celebrate the Israelites' deliverance from Egyptian enslavement as described in the Book of Exodus.

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The Lisbon Bible

Lisbon Bible, Volume 1, f.23v

The Lisbon Bible is the most accomplished dated codex (a manuscript in book form rather than a scroll) of the Portuguese school of medieval Hebrew illumination. Its three volumes comprise all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible.

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Chinese Torah - Kaifeng Torah

Torah Scroll, Kaifeng, China, 17th century. Genesis 35:1

This scroll was specially prepared for one of the farthest-flung and most remarkable religious communities of history: the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng.

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Life of the Buddha

The Life of Buddha f.3-4. The Shakya Prince leaving his wife and child to find enlightenment

This folding book is the third part of an illustrated account of the Buddha's life, beginning with his departure from court and his endurance of various austerities before his enlightenment.

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Mr Liu and his wife ascend to the clouds

Mr Liu and his Wife Ascend f.11v-12

This lavish album from 1750 is written in gold text on a bright blue background, with pictures illustrating the magical stories of 15 famous Daoists.

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Ravana sends out more troops to battle Lord Rama, f.128

The epic poem Ramayana was first composed by Valmiki in the middle of the first millennium.

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Vishnu and Shiva

Vishnu and Shiva combined as Hari Hara

This image depicts the Hindu Gods Vishnu and Shiva combined into one form: Hari Hara, the supreme God.

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Zoroastrian prayer

Text from the Sacred Poems of Zoroaster

This manuscript comes not from India or Iran, the lands associated today with the Zoroastrian religion, but from Dunhuang in Central China, and is written in Sogdian, a medieval Iranian language.

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Jain Mandala

Jain Mandala

A mandala is a sacred religious image, usually in the form of complex concentric circles.

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Rani Jindan prayer book

Rani Jindan's Prayer Book f.1v-2

This Sikh manuscript was prepared between 1828 and 1830 for Rani Jindan Kaur, wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and mother of Dalip Singh. It consists of three compositions from the Guru Granth Sahib: Guru Nanak's Sidh Gosti, followed by Bavan Akhari and Sukhmani by Guru Arjan.

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