British Library Entrance

British Library Entrance

Reading Room

Reading Room


A must visit, not just for bibliophiles, although they do have the world's largest catalogue, but for anybody interested in communication. The British Library was created on 1 July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act 1972. Prior to this, the national library was part of the British Museum, which provided the bulk of the holdings of the new library, alongside smaller organisations which were folded in. The core of the Library's historical collections is based on a series of donations and acquisitions from the 18th century, known as the "foundation collections". These include the books and manuscripts of Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, Robert Harley and the King's Library of King George III, as well as the Old Royal Library donated by King George II (not much of a reader). And then there is Legal Deposit. In England, Legal Deposit can be traced back to at least 1610. The Copyright Act 1911 established the principle of the legal deposit, ensuring that the British Library and five other libraries in Great Britain and Ireland are entitled to receive a free copy of every item published or distributed in Britain. The other five libraries are: the Bodleian Library at Oxford; the University Library at Cambridge; the Trinity College Library at Dublin; and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales. The British Library is the only one that must automatically receive a copy of every item published in Britain; the others are entitled to these items, but must specifically request them from the publisher after learning that they have been or are about to be published, a task done centrally by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries.


A number of books and manuscripts are on display to the general public in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which is open seven days a week at no charge. Some of the manuscripts in the exhibition include Beowulf, the Lindisfarne Gospels and St Cuthbert Gospel, a Gutenberg Bible, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (King Arthur), Captain Cook's journal, Jane Austen's History of England, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a room devoted solely to Magna Carta, as well as several Qu'rans and Asian items. In addition to the permanent exhibition, there are frequent thematic exhibitions which have covered maps, sacred texts, the history of the English language, and law, including a celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Of particular interest to the visually impaired (aside from it's proximity to the RNIB) is the Sound archive. The British Library Sound Archive holds more than a million discs and 185,000 tapes. The collections come from all over the world and cover the entire range of recorded sound from music, drama and literature to oral history and wildlife sounds, stretching back over more than 100 years. The Sound Archive's online catalogue is updated daily. It is possible to listen to recordings from the collection in selected Reading Rooms in the Library through their SoundServer and Listening and Viewing Service, which is based in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room. These are just a few of their services; they also conduct curator-led tours.


Location : 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB.

Transport: Kings Cross (Northern Line). Kings Cross (Metropolitan). Kings Cross (Hammersmith + City). Kings Cross (Piccadilly). Kings Cross (Victoria). Euston (London Overground). Kings Cross, St. Pancras, Euston (National Rail) London Buses routes 10, 18, 30, 59, 73, 91, 205, 390, 476, N73 and N91 stop nearby.

Opening Times: Monday to Thursday 09:30 to 20:00 , Friday 09:30 to 18:00.

Saturday 09:30 to 17:00 , Sunday/Bank Holiday 11:00 to 17:00.

Exhibition Tours available for booking for up to 15 people.

Tickets : Free.

Treasure Room Tours are Free, Other Tours usually £100.

Tel: 01937 546060.    Textphone: 01937 546434