Interactive audio-visual devices explain the history and ceremonies of the three monotheistic religions, and a programme of colourful events on the library forecourt will include gospel choirs and a performance by the whirling Dervish dancer Zia Azazi

"We hope that this exhibition can make a significant contribution towards promoting better understanding of the three faiths," exhibition curator Graham Shaw told Ecumenical News International. "We took the groundbreaking decision to display objects of the three religions side by side rather than in separate zones to show how they have interacted and influenced each other and how much they have in common."

Shaw noted: "Faith affects all our lives, believers and secular alike, and we want to demonstrate how it is still relevant to contemporary Britain."

Among the oldest documents, he cited a Dead Sea Scroll fragment from AD 50, the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest surviving complete copy of the New Testament in Greek dating from the fourth century AD and the Ma'il Qur'an from the first century of the Muslim Hijri calendar (early eighth century AD) which was penned within 100 years of the flight of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina.

Another rare item is the Syraic Pentateuch, the earliest known dated Biblical manuscript written by Deacon John at Amida in Turkey in AD 463 which comprises the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Among the private loans are a gold shalwar kameez worn by Jemima Goldsmith when she married the former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan.

A leading exhibition sponsor is the Moroccan British Society, along with faith bodies and other institutions including the Coexist Foundation and the Saint Catherine Foundation.

ENI