Access and Opening Hours

The Library and Archives Reading Room is open:

Please note that Proof of identity is required to access the special collections and archives.

Access is by prior appointment only. To arrange a visit please write to:

The Library
Royal Armouries
Armouries Drive
LS10 1LT
Email: library@armouries.org.uk

Reference Library

The majority of the 40,000 books, pamphlets and journals in the reference library relate to the history and development of arms and armour (excluding artillery) from the earliest period to the present day but there are also a number of works on related subjects such as art, technology, warfare, chivalry and knighthood, martial arts, hunting and shooting, archery, and a collection of museum and exhibition catalogues from around the world.

Special Collections

There is a small collection of early books on fencing dating from the 16th to 19th centuries and including the works of Marozzo, di Grassi, George Silver and others. The museum also owns the earliest-known fencing manual dating from the mid 13th century and showing the use of sword and buckler.

There is a collection of books on the art of war dating from the early 17th to late 19th centuries, and including the drill books and manuals of Sir John Smythe, Jacob De Gheyn, and Henry Hexham amongst others.

There are number of illustrated books on various aspects of chivalry and knighthood including two rare manuscripts containing An account of the jousts between Jehan Chalons of England and Loys de Beul of France at Tours in 1446 and the Ordinances of Chivalry of Philip IV of France, as well as a number of facsimile reprints of other important 16th century tournament books.

Amongst the rarer items are a mid 15th century Firework Book showing the manufacture and use of gunpowder, and a Japanese block book illustrating a samurai warrior preparing for battle.

There is also a special collection of arms and armour auction sales catalogues dating from the 1790’s to the present day.


The archive holdings include the official records of the Royal Armouries from 1984 to the present as well as some earlier records relating to the Tower Armouries (the majority of these records are held at the National Archives).

There are a number of important collections of research material of arms and armour scholars and historians including Charles, Baron de Cosson, Francis Henry Cripps-Day, Sir James Mann, Dr Richard Williams and Howard Blackmore.

The archives also includes the official records of the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield), Wilkinson Sword Limited and G.E. Lewis, gunmakers of London and Birmingham.

Film and Image Library

The Image Library contains high resolution images of some of the finest items in the Royal Armouries collection, a sample of which can be seen at http://collections.royalarmouries.org/. Copies can be purchased as digital images and licenses are available for editorial, commercial and academic use. For further information contact library@armouries.org.uk

The film and image library also holds copies of the various films and videos on show around the Museum, including the popular Arms in Action series.


Did you know?

Earliest known galvanising

On the 30 Sept 1999 the Royal Armouries discovered the world’s earliest known galvanising of iron on some 17th Century Indian armour.