The John Rylands Library was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband John Rylands. In 1889 the architect Basil Champneys designed the striking gothic building, which took ten years to build and was opened to public readers on 1 January 1900.
The library became part of The University of Manchester in 1972 and currently holds the Special Collections of The University of Manchester Library. Mrs Rylands' memorial to her husband is now part of the third largest academic library in the United Kingdom, and the Deansgate building houses over 250,000 printed volumes, and well over a million manuscripts and archival items.
The library was one of the first buildings in Manchester to be lit by electricity, which was originally generated on site, with mains electricity introduced in the 1950s and major re-wiring bringing it up-to-date in the 1990s.
The original building included an air-filtering system to reduce pollution. Air was drawn in from outside, filtered through coke screens kept moist by water sprays and then circulated through ducting and drawn over heated water pipes - an extremely sophisticated arrangement for its time.
The bookcases were equipped with elaborate locks and seals to protect their contents against both unauthorized handling and the City's grime-laden atmosphere.