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Press release

Finest books from the Royal Library to go on display at Windsor Castle to celebrate World Book Day

Release date: Thursday, 1 March 2018

World Book Day at Windsor Castle


On Friday, 2 and Saturday, 3 March, 24 of the finest books from the Royal Library will go on display throughout the State and Semi-State Apartments at Windsor Castle in celebration of World Book Day.  From glittering illuminated manuscripts to early examples of printing and volumes annotated by kings and queens, the books on display will give visitors a unique insight into the extraordinary holdings of the Royal Library.

Based at Windsor Castle since the 1830s, the Royal Library is home to more than 200,000 works, collected by monarchs and their librarians over hundreds of years, which now form part of the Royal Collection.  Among the works on display to visitors will be a leather-bound volume written by Henry VIII in 1521 as an attack on Martin Luther, which bears the King's signature, and a copy of Shakespeare's Second Folio, annotated by Charles I and George III.  Charles I read the folio while imprisoned at Windsor Castle before his execution in 1649, and annotated the flyleaf with the words Dum Spiro Spero ('while I breathe, I hope').

Visitors will have the chance to discover both the largest and smallest books in the Royal Library.  John James Audubon's Birds of America, c.1831–1834, measures a metre high and was one of the first ornithological works to depict birds as if alive, rather than stuffed.  Audubon spent 20 years making detailed drawings in preparation for this enormous work, and chose what is known as 'double-elephant' size paper so that he could feature life-size illustrations of birds as large as swans and flamingos.  By contrast, the smallest books in the Royal Library are little larger than postage stamps and were created especially for Queen Mary's Dolls' House by some of the most famous authors of the 1920s.  Works on display will include tiny handwritten stories by Vita Sackville-West, Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling.

Librarians and curators will be on hand throughout the two days to share more about their roles with visitors, and bookbinders will demonstrate how they use centuries-old techniques to preserve traditional hand-bookbinding skills for future generations.  In the Castle's State Entrance, visitors can try their hand at folding and finishing a simple book to take home.

On Friday, 2 March, visitors to the Castle will also be able to explore a display of rare books and manuscripts from the Chapter Library and Archives at St George's Chapel, including a handwritten 15th-century English New Testament.

On Saturday, 3 March and Saturday, 10 March, children can enjoy drop-in storytelling sessions in the magnificent State Apartments and are invited to come dressed as their favourite book characters to claim a free copy of the illustrated children's book The Birthday Crown.

Throughout 2 and 3 March, the Castle shops will offer visitors 10% off any book. Visitors who purchase their tickets directly from Royal Collection Trust can convert them into a 1-Year Pass and enjoy free re-admission to the Castle for a year. 

World Book Day events at Windsor Castle are on Friday, 2 and Saturday, 3 March from 10:30 to 15:00.  All displays and activities are included in the price of admission to the Castle.  Tickets and visitor information:, T. +44 (0)303 123 7304.