British Library

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Interior of the British Library.

The British Library (BL) is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is on the north side of Euston Road in St Pancras, London, between Euston railway station and St Pancras railway station. The Library is a public institution and is one of the world's largest research libraries. Since 2000 the Chief Executive of the British Library has been Lynne Brindley.


The British Library contains over 150 million items in every language that is known. It has around 25 million books, more than any other library except the American Library of Congress. It has manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC. There are books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and much more.[1]

The British Library, by the law of the United Kingdom, receives copies of every book that is published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including all foreign books that are sold in the UK. It also buys many books which are only published outside Britain and Ireland. The British Library adds about three million items to its collection every year. The British Library has about 388 miles (625 km) of shelves.[2]

History[change | edit source]

The British Library, before it got its present name, started out as a group of collections made by several people in the 18th century and then given as part of a national library. The collectors were King George III, Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, and Robert Harley. The national library was part of the British Museum and was kept at various places, with some of the most important items always being on public display in the museum.

The British Library was created in 1973 by the British Library Act 1972. Since 1997 the main collection has been housed in a single new building on Euston Road next to St. Pancras railway station. In the middle of the building is a four-storey glass tower containing the ‘’King's Library’’, with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820.

Not all of the collection is kept in this new building. Part of the collection is at the Document Supply Centre in Yorkshire and all the newspapers from before 1800 are kept at the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London.

In December 2009 a new storage building at Boston Spa was opened. It cost £26million and will house seven million items, stored in more than 140,000 bar-coded containers, which are retrieved by robots,[3] from the 262 kilometres of temperature- and humidity-controlled storage space.[4]

Highlights of the collections[change | edit source]

The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew from the Lindisfarne Gospels

References[change | edit source]