“The British Library” by S.M. O’Connor


Established in 1973, The British Library is an offshoot of The British Museum like the Natural History Museum.  It legally became a separate entity in 1973 and moved into its own quarters in St. Pancras in 1998. Now, it is the equivalent of Bibliothèque nationale de France (“National Library of France”).  In 2014, when the holdings totaled 150,000,000 items, it was said that if one could read five books a day, it would still take 80,000 years to read all the books in The British Library.  Today, its collections of approximately 170,000,000 items include the private library of King George III and two of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta from 1215.  It is second in holdings only to the Library of Congress.


Figure 1 Credit: Paul Grundy Caption: This is an aerial view of The British Library, the plaza of which was originally called the Concourse and now is called the Piazza.  The splendid Gothic Revival-style St. Pancras Chambers building can be seen in the top right hand corner of the picture.


Figure 2 Credit: Paul Grundy Caption: This is The British Library seen from the intersection of Euston Road/A501 and Ossulston Street.


Figure 3 Credit: The British Library Caption: Architect Sir Alexander St. John (“Sandy”) Wilson (1922-2007) commissioned the Italian-Scottish sculptor Sir Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924-2005) to produce the bronze sculpture Newton After Blake (1995), which sits in the Piazza.


Figure 4 Credit: Paul Grundy Caption: Paolozzi was inspired by poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake’s 1795 print that illustrated how Sir Isaac Newton’s equations changed the way humanity views the universe to being governed by mathematical laws we can discern.


Figure 5 Credit: Paul Grundy Caption: This is the Foyer of The British Library.


Figure 6 Credit: Paul Grundy Caption: This is a reading room that overlooks another reading room.


Figure 7 Credit: Charles Birchmore, The British Library Caption: This is the Issue Desk in the Newsroom at The British Library, as seen on April 14, 2014.


Figure 8 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is the Harry M. Weinrebe Learning Centre, as seen on September 15, 2010.


Figure 9 Credit: Paul Grundy Caption: This is The King’s Library Tower and King’s Library Café.

Schoolchilds homework in Greek on a wax tablet c British Library

Figure 10 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is a schoolchild’s homework in Greek on a wax tablet from the 2nd Century A.D. Egypt.


Figure 11 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is the single surviving manuscript of the epic poem Beowulf, the longest epic poem in Old English.


Figure 12 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is an illustration from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a masterpiece of Middle English literature.

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Figure 13 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is a 1599 Quarto edition of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.


Figure 14 Credit: the British Library Caption: This is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s catalogue of his complete musical works from 1784 to 1791.  As a manuscript, it is in his handwriting and musical notation.


Figure 15 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is page-turning technology at The British Library.


Figure 16 Credit: Alec Guinness Estate, courtesy of The British Library Caption: In 2013, The British Library acquired the personal archive of the great actor Sir Alex Guinness (1914-2000).  This is Page 1 of a letter he wrote his wife, the playwright Merula Sylvia Salaman Guinness (1914-2000), three days after the ship he commanded in the Second Great World War sank.

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Figure 17 Credit: The British Library Caption: This 18th Century Chinese red lacquer case contained a manuscript written by the Qianlong Emperor (lived 1711-1799, reigned 1735-1796), who belonged to the Manchurian Qing dynasty.


Figure 18 Credit: Tony Antoniou, The British Museum Captiobn: This is Judge Dredd’s helmet from the exhibit Comics Unmasked, as seen on April 13, 2014.  This was on loan from DNA Films, which made Dredd (2012), and was not part of The British Library’s collections.


Figure 19 Credit: Barry Wilkinson, The British Library Caption: This is a 1989 sketch by Barry Wilkinson of Paddington Bear, the beloved character created by children’s book author Michael Bond (1926-2017).  This sketch appeared in the 2013-2014 exhibit Picture This in The Folio Society Gallery.

What Happened to The British Museum’s Central Library?

After The British Library moved out of The British Museum, the latter’s Central Library remained in the Reading Room.  The holdings include books on the history of The British Museum, a few of The British Museum’s rare books, and a collection of rare books from the House of Commons.  In 2007 the Central Library moved into the Paul Hamlyn Library, a reference library The British Museum had established in 2000, and effectively merged with it to clear the Reading Room to become exhibit space.  In 2007, The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army was the first special exhibit The British Museum held in the Reading Room.

The British Museum later announced it had to close Paul Hamlyn Library “as part of efforts to accommodate a 15% cut to the Museum’s grant-in-aid budget.”  The Centre for Anthropology library remains open to all museum visitors while researchers may access the curatorial departmental libraries (Ancient Egypt & Sudan, Asia, Coins & Medals, Greece & Rome, Middle East, Prehistory and Europe, and Prints & Drawings) by appointment.

The Paul Hamlyn Library, Central Library, and House of Commons joint collection, contains 50,000 books and journals. The subject matter includes archaeology, history, art, numismatics, Egyptology, Classical antiquities, Oriental art, and museum studies.  It covers the range of cultures and types of collection covered by The British Museum. There is a collection of works relating to the history of The British Museum, including guidebooks dating back to 1762. The collection includes a copy of every British Museum publication.  There is a collection of ephemera relating to past exhibitions, including a poster archive.

The Map Thief

Like The Newberry Library in Chicago, The British Library was a victim of American map thief E. Forbes Smiley III.  The British Library stated in a summary of Victim Impact Statement when he was sentenced in 2006, “The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, funded by the government.  One of the world’s great libraries, it is often described as the steward of the ‘DNA of civilization.’  The first resort for American scholars who wish to gain access to Europe’s written and visual culture across all the continent’s languages, it is also the library of first resort for Europeans in search of information about the Americas.  Any loss to The British Library is thus veritably a loss to humankind, including the United States.”

The victim impact statements profoundly articulate the point that monetary loss is almost insignificant compared to other measures of harm to the libraries.  They provide compelling statements concerning the provenance of these exceptional pieces.  The Apian world map stolen from the British Library by Smiley tells but one tale of the 97 maps stolen.  This map was torn from a volume that was owned by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.  The volume, now absent the map, still bears his signature.  Cranmer precipitated England’s epoch-making break with Rome by marrying King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn in 1533.  After Henry, he was the most influential man in early Tudor England.  The volume shows that Cranmer took a lively interest in geography.  Thus, the Apian map represents Cranmer’s image of the world.  It demonstrates that he believed America to be a separate continent discovered by Amerigo Vespucci and not, as many still believed at that time, that it was part of Asia.  This image determined such advice as he gave the king and his ministers on matters of overseas exploration. After Cranmer was burned for his beliefs under Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”) in 1556, this volume was confiscated and became part of the (Old) Royal Library.  Rebound with its current red morocco and gilt binding under King Charles II at some time between 1660 and 1685, it was presented by King George II to the newly created British Museum in 1757 and passed to the British Library on its creation in 1973.4  The volume and map remained intact surviving catastrophic events: the execution of its owner and the disbursement of his property; Civil War and the ascendance of Oliver Cromwell; royal intrigue; times of economic depression; and the Nazi bombing of London.  The volume remained intact until visited by Smiley.  The maps stolen from Harvard, Yale, the New York and Boston Public Libraries, and the Newberry Library have similar impressive stories to tell.

The British Library’s lawyer, Robert E. Goldman, advocated a sentence for Smiley of imprisonment for between seventy-eight and ninety-seven months based on the figure of eighteen maps instead of the range of fifty-seven to seventy-one months to which the prosecutors and defense attorney had agreed.  Goldman argued, “The victims of his crimes… are not simply the individual institutions.  The stolen maps have been held in trust by the libraries for future generations.  They had been cared for and preserved for centuries until Smiley ripped them from their volumes and slid them into his coat.”

The British Library questions the level of Smiley’s cooperation.  When first asked whether he had stolen additional maps from the library, Smiley replied that ‘he did not remember.’  This was hardly an assuring response.  When pressed further by the library through counsel, Smiley’s inability to recall transformed, late in time and close to sentencing, to a denial.  This change is highly suspect.

We also note that our requests that Smiley agree that we may examine his statements to the authorities in order to assist us locate additional maps and prepare for sentencing have been refused.  The government has also denied our request to examine the statements.  We know that Smiley lied repeatedly when he was first confronted by Yale staff.  Given the defendant’s and the government’s refusal to permit us to review the cooperation statements, we cannot assess for ourselves the progression of Smiley’s truth telling.

We note further that Smiley has refused our request to examine whatever records the government may have obtained from Smiley.  The victims have not received a list of individuals to whom Smiley has sold the maps and the identification of each map sold to the dealers and collectors.  Smiley has not provided sufficient answers raised to him through counsel.  The victims are left, therefore, with no assistance from Smiley to locate the missing maps.

The British Library in Recent Times

Visitors in the reading room and other above-ground spaces may be unaware they are over a book depository.  Five subterranean floors that extend eighty feet underground.  Workers at one place in the stacks can here the London Underground (subway system), according to the P.B.S. documentary Secrets of Underground London (2014).  There were, as of 2014, 400 miles of shelves with seven more miles of shelves added every year.  As anyone familiar with a large library or archive would expect, this is compact shelving.  The workers in the stacks retrieve an average of 3,000 books a day for visitors to the on-site reading room or off-site patrons.  One can request books ahead of time by finding a book or books in the catalog on-line and submitting a request for the date one will be on site.  A worker will place a requested book in a basket with the message stating where it needs to go and place the basket on a conveyor belt.  It takes five minutes for the book to make its journey via the mechanical book handling system to the reading room at the surface.

On Thursday, April 4, 2013, The British Library announced, “Regulations coming into force on 6 April will enable six major libraries to collect, preserve and provide long term access to the increasing proportion of the nation’s cultural and intellectual output that appears in digital form – including blogs, e-books and the entire UK web domain.”

From this point forward, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the [University of Oxford’s] Bodleian LibrariesCambridge University Library and Trinity College Library Dublin will have the right to receive a copy of every UK electronic publication, on the same basis as they have received print publications such as books, magazines and newspapers for several centuries.

The regulations in question refer to legal deposit.  British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, M.P. (Member of Parliament), said, “Legal deposit arrangements remain vitally important. Preserving and maintaining a record of everything that has been published provides a priceless resource for the researchers of today and the future. So it’s right that these long-standing arrangements have now been brought up to date for the 21st century, covering the UK’s digital publications for the first time. The Joint Committee on Legal Deposit has worked very successfully in creating practical policies and processes so that digital content can now be effectively archived and our academic and literary heritage preserved, in whatever form it takes.”

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 established the principle of extending legal deposit beyond print.  The British Library stated the new “regulations implement it in practical terms, encompassing electronic publications such as e-journals and e-books, offline (or hand-held) formats like CD-Rom and an initial 4.8 million websites from the UK web domain.”

Access to non-print materials, including archived websites, will be offered via on-site reading room facilities at each of the legal deposit libraries. While the initial offering to researchers will be limited in scope, the libraries will gradually increase their capability for managing large-scale deposit, preservation and access over the coming months and years.

By the end of this year, the results of the first live archiving crawl of the UK web domain will be available to researchers, along with tens of thousands of e-journal articles, e-books and other materials.

The regulations were developed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in conjunction with the Joint Committee on Legal Deposit, which includes representatives from the Legal Deposit Libraries and different sectors of the publishing industry. They establish an agreed approach for the libraries to develop an efficient system for archiving digital publications, while avoiding an unreasonable burden for publishers and protecting the interests of rights-holders.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council, Chairman of the U.K. Publishers Content Forum and Joint Chairman of the Joint Committee on Legal Deposit stated, “Capturing our digital heritage for preservation and future research is essential. As publishers were among the first to embrace the opportunities of digital publishing, recognising advantages of dissemination beyond traditional outlets and the potential of technology to drive innovation, we welcome the extension of legal deposit to digital formats and web harvesting.”

“Ten years ago, there was a very real danger of a black hole opening up and swallowing our digital heritage, with millions of web pages, e-publications and other non-print items falling through the cracks of a system that was devised primarily to capture ink and paper,” said Roly Keating, Chief Executive of The British Library (and formerly the B.B.C.’s Director of Archive Content).

Mr. Keating continued, “The Legal Deposit Libraries Act established in 2003 the principle that legal deposit needed to evolve to reflect the massive shift to digital forms of publishing. The regulations now coming into force make digital legal deposit a reality, and ensure that the Legal Deposit Libraries themselves are able to evolve – collecting, preserving and providing long-term access to the profusion of cultural and intellectual content appearing online or in other digital formats.”

Three million items are added to The British Library’s collections every year.  It receives a copy of every publication produced in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

The collections encompass over 170,000,000 items, embracing almost every language.  The holdings include books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, drawings, prints, stamps, music scores, and patents.  The British Library has over 8,000,000 stamps and other philatelic items.  The Sound Archives includes everything from 19th Century cylinders to compacts discs (CDs) and MiniDiscs (MDs).

To provide adequate storage space, The British Library stated on its Website it had 625 kilometres (388 miles, 628.31 yards or 2,500,050 feet) of shelves, and grew by twelve  kilometres (7 miles, 803.86 yards or 39,370 feet, 61/64 inches) per year.

Treasures of the collections include both of Sir Robert Cotton’s copies of the Magna Carta that date back to 1215; the Lindisfarne Gospels; Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook; the first edition of The Times (March 18, 1788); Beatles manuscripts; and the recording of Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech.  After raising the funds through a variety of sources, The British Library purchased the St. Cuthbert Gospel from the Society of Jesus for £9,000,000 in 2012.

Like the Lindisfarne Gospels, it is an illuminated manuscript Evangelion (Book of the Gospels).  Written in 698, it is the oldest intact European book.  It is, of course, a handwritten manuscript, yet the text is nearly as clear as when the scribe wrote the words.  The book is in such good condition because it was buried with St. Cuthbert, but it became separated from the saint’s remains when his body was moved within Durham Cathedral.[1] Since 1979, it had been on long-term loan from Stonyhurst College, the famous Jesuit school, to The British Library.


Figure 20 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is the Lindisfarne Gospels.

The holdings of the British Library range in age from over 3,000 years old (in the case of Chinese oracle bones) to today’s newspaper.  They include 310,000 manuscript volumes from Jane Austen (1775-1817) to James Joyce (18820-1941) in terms of novelists and from Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) to The Beatles in terms of musical composers; 60,000,000 patents; over 4,000,000 maps; and more than 260,000 journal titles.  Sometimes, The British Library places on public display in an exhibit gallery the Diamond Sūtra, which is the earliest-dated printed book as it was published in the Chinese Empire in 868 A.D.

The British Library serves academics and other researchers, students, businesses, foundations, and government bodies in the U.K. and foreign countries worldwide.  Over 16,000 people use the collections every day (on-site and on-line).

Users around the world have borrowed more than 100,000,000 items from The British Library.  Click here to learn how to get a Reader Pass and click here to learn how to use the Reading Rooms.

Every year, approximately 6,000,000 searches are generated by The British Library’s online catalogue.  Almost 400,000 people visit The British Library’s Reading Rooms.  The British Library can accommodate up to 1,200 readers at a time.

The British Library building in St. Pancras, London is the largest public building built in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 20th Century.  The basement and subbasements extend to a depth of 24.5 metres (80.38058 feet).

The St. Pancras building has a total floor area of 112,000 square metres (367,454.08 feet) spread over fourteen floors (nine above ground and five below).  It is comprised of approximately 10,000,000 bricks and 180,000 tonnes (or 198,414 tons) of concrete.

Between April of 2008 and April of 2010, the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London collaborated with The British Library to create The Sloane Printed Books Catalogue.  It lists the books that belonged to the founder of The British Museum.

The Wellcome Trust funds allowed a research team to expand an existent database that had not previously been available to the public.  It launched in July of 2008 as one of The British Library’s special catalogues with more than 13,000 records.

The British Library explained, “On Sloane’s death…his collection of books and manuscripts was estimated at 50,000 volumes, of which 136 were books of prints, 2666 volumes of manuscripts and the remainder printed books… At the foundation of the Museum, his books were moved…to Montague House along with the other collections.   Although Sloane’s books were kept in designated rooms, they were placed into subject categories, the Museum trustees having expressed their opinion that the books were ‘dispos’d in a very irregular manner, with little regard to the subjects or even the size of them’ and ordered that they should be re-arranged by subject; they should be ‘placed on the shelves according to their respective faculties’. By end of the eighteenth century, Sloane’s books were interspersed with items from other sources, particularly the Old Royal Library, and with subsequent acquisitions. In many cases, evidence of identity was lost by the early practice of binding or re-binding in a Museum style which involved removing the preliminary leaves where Sloane’s identification marks are often found.”

The identification of Sloane’s printed books is therefore not entirely straightforward. Unlike his manuscripts, the books were never kept together in the order in which they had been during his lifetime. Those that remain in the British Library are now scattered in various parts of the collections: moreover, some of them are no longer in the British Library, having been sold or otherwise disposed of as duplicates and many of those remaining have lost their identifying marks through wear and tear and repair…

The British Museum held a number of sales of duplicate items, in 1769, 1788, 1805, 1818, 1819, 1831 and 1832. As a result of these sales an unknown but evidently substantial number of Sloane’s books left the Museum, many of which are now to be found in libraries both in the UK and abroad. The 1769 sale catalogue is the only one for which we have an extant copy with indications of the collections from which the lots were taken. 390 separate Sloane items are listed there, to which must be added many tract items sold as part of mixed lots. One of the aims of the Sloane Printed Books project is to locate as many as possible of the items disposed of as duplicates and to enter them in the catalogue, in order to give a complete listing of the collection.

Items sold at these sales were normally stamped as duplicates…

The famous botanist Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), 1st Baronet, who served as the President of the Royal Society for forty-one years, purchased one such book in 1787.  It subsequently returned to The British Museum Library with his collection following his death.

Roly Keating Elected President of Conference of European National Libraries

On Friday, May 29, 2015, The British Library announced British Library Chief Executive Roly Keating had been elected President of the Conference of European National Libraries (C.E.N.L.) at their May 18-19, 2015 meeting in Bern, Switzerland.  His presidency would last for a period of three years.  Founded in 1987, the C.E.N.L. aims to develop and support the role of national libraries in Europe.  The British Library is one of forty-nine current members from forty-six European countries: member states of the Council of Europe.

The forty-nine national libraries (listed alphabetically by country) are the National Library of Albania / Biblioteka Kombëtare e Shqipërisë; the National Library of Armenia; the National Library of Austria / Österreichische Nationalbibliothek; the National Library of Azerbaijan / M.F. Axundov adina Azerbaycan Milli Kitabxana; the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België / Bibliothèque royale de Belgique (Royal Library of Belgium or Library Royale of Belgium); Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Nacionalna i univerzitetska biblioteka / Nacionalna i univerzitetska biblioteka (National & University Library); the National Library of Bulgaria / St. Cyril and Methodius National Library (Saints Cyril and Methodius National Library); Croatia’s National and University Library in Zagreb; the Cyprus Library; the National Library of the Czech Republic / Národní knihovna Ceské republiky (National Library of the Czech Republic); the National Library of Denmark / Det Kongelige Bibliotek (The Royal Library); the National Library of Estonia / Eesti Rahvusraamatukogu; The National Library of Finland / Kansalliskirjasto; the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France); National Parliamentary Library of Georgia; the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek / German National Library; the National Library of Hungary / Országos Széchényi Könyvtár (OSZK); the National & University Library of Iceland; the National Library of Ireland / Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann; Central National Library of Florence / Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze;[2] the National Library of Latvia; the National Library of Lichtenstein; the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania; the National Library of Luxembourg; The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia’s National and University Library St. Kliment Ohridski; Malta Libraries / The National Library of Malta; the National Library of Montenegro Djurdje Crnojevic – Cetinje / Naciocalna biblioteka Crne Gore Djurdje Crnojevic – Cetinje; the National Library of the Netherlands / Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library); the National Library of Norway / Nasjonalbiblioteket; the National Library of Poland / Biblioteka Narodowa; the National Library of Portugal; the National Library of Romania; the Russian State Library; the Biblioteca di Stato e Beni Librari (State Library and Library Property) of the Republic of San Marino; the Slovak National Library / Slovenská národná knižnica; the National and University Library; the National Library of Spain (Biblioteca Nacional de España); the National Library of Sweden / Kungliga biblioteket (Royal Library); the Swiss National Library / Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek / Bibliothèque nationale Suisse / Biblioteca nazionale svizzera; the National Library of Turkey; V. Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine; The British Library; and The Vatican Library / Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Apostolic Vatican Library).[3]

The C.E.N.L. was founded with a meeting in Lisbon of eleven national librarians from the Kingdom of Denmark, the Republic of France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Greece, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Norway, the Portuguese Republic, the Kingdom of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City.  Since its formation, the C.E.N.L. has had a leadership position in the development of The European Library (TEL), formed in 2005 to create a framework for access to key national library collections within Europe; and FUMAGABA, a partnership aimed at integrating the collections of national libraries in eastern Europe.

Roly Keating said, “It’s a privilege to take on the role of CENL President and I look forward to working with the national libraries of Europe to help deliver CENL’s strategic plan 2015-18.”


Figure 21 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is one of The British Library’s two copies of the Magna Carta being prepared for display in the Conservation Centre.


Figure 22 Credit: Clare Kendall, The British Library Caption: Four copies of the Magna Carta were reunited at the British Library for the exhibit Magna Carta: Law Liberty, Legacy in 2015.

British Library Magna Carta unification.
British Library Magna Carta unification. Celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta marked by the display of the 4 original documents together for the first time. Copies are from Salisbury, Lincoln cathedrals and the British Library. 1215 people attended the day drawn from ballot of 45000 from around the world. The Magna Carta is still viewed as a hugely significant document enshrining the law as sovereign and so guarding against the tyranny of rulers and mob rule. This event comes before follow up exhibitions in the spring looking at the legacy of the Magna Carta including its influence on the US founding fathers and more recently the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

Figure 23 Credit: Nick Cunard, The British Library Caption: These are visitors viewing the four copies of the Magna Carta displayed together at The British Library exhibit Magna Carta: Law Liberty, Legacy in 2015.

2018 Statistics

Last year, according to the 46th Annual Report of The British Library (2018-2019), The British Library acquired 413,000 printed items.  This included the reception of 290,000 physical items under legal deposit, everything that had been published that year in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.  They filled eight kilometers of shelving space, which added to a national collection of 746 kilometers of shelving space, 70% of which meets international standards of environmental storage conditions.  Landmark acquisitions included the personal archive of Labour Party politician and Tony Benn (1925-2014)[4] and two demo discs by The Beatles. It made thirty grants to archives around the world in order to preserve endangered documents.  In addition, the six legal deposit libraries of the U.K. have collected 140,000 eBooks, 2,500,000 eJournal articles, and 470 terabytes of archived content from the World Wide Web (about 10,000,000 Websites and 6,000,000,000 objects).

Diaries Tony Benn Archive.jpg

Figure 24 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is a selection of diaries from the Tony Benn Archive.

There were 1,600,000 visitors in total, 27,500,000 visits to the Website, and 5,100,000 items consulted online. People made 418,000 visits to the British Library Reading Rooms at St. Pancras and Boston Spa.  There were 10,600,000 users of The British Library’s digital learning resources.

Approximately 1,100,000 people attended exhibits or exhibitions at The British Library at St. Pancras.  Over 100,000 people visited the exhibit Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War.


Figure 25 Credit: Sam Lane Photography Caption: This is the Codex Amiatinus, which the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (B.M.L.) in Florence loaned to The British Library for the exhibit Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War.


Figure 26 Figure 27 Credit: Sam Lane Photography Caption: The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, also known as the Laurentian Library,[5] loaned the Codex Amiatinus to The British Library for the exhibit Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War.

Harry Potter and the History of Magic, which had been a hit at The British Library in 2017, became The British Library’s first international traveling exhibit when the New York Historical Society displayed it.  Around 50,000 people attended 300 cultural events, including talks and festivals.  School groups made 30,000 field trips to The British Library.  The Business & IP Centre supported 23,000 people.  The British Library announced a partnership with the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France) to digitize 800 medieval manuscripts.

Phoenix illustration by Jim Kay Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2016 Original design by the British Library 2017

Figure 28 Credit: The British Library Caption: The British Library created this image for the exhibit Harry Potter and the History of Magic by adpating Jim Kay’s illustration of a phoenix for Bloomsbury Publishing’s new illustrated editions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.


Figure 29 Credit: Tony Antoniou Caption: This is a promotional picture for the exhibit Harry Potter and the History of Magic, taken on August 4, 2016.  The young woman in this picture is holding open a copy of Jim Kay’s illustrated copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.[6]


Figure 30 Credit: Steve Brock Photography Caption: This is Harry Potter and the History of Magic at the Newcastle City Library.


Figure 31 Credit: Krisztian Sipos Caption: Sir David Attenborough in James Cook: The Voyages at The British Library on April 26, 2018.


Figure 32 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is the Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion exhibit at The British Library.


Figure 33 The British Library Business & IP Centre released statistics that showed its economic impact since 2016.  ERS Research & Consultancy surveyed 1,855 people in March of 2019.


Figure 34 Credit: The British Library Caption: Dr. John Scally of The National Library of Scotland; Dr. Bridget McConnell, C.B.E., of Glasgow Life; and Roly Keating, Chief Executive of The British Library; open the new Business & IP Centre at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.


Figure 35 Credit: The British Library caption: This is a picture of the audience from the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event at The British Library on October 2, 2018.

Dame Carol Black, Chair, and Roly Keating, Chief Executive, of The British Library, stated, “For our St Pancras plans, a key moment was signing a Development Agreement with SMBL Ltd, a consortium comprising Stanhope plc and Mitsui Fudosan UK Ltd, working with architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and engineers Arup. This enables us to move forward with plans to deliver a 100,000 ft2 extension to our Grade 1-listed building, financed through an innovative partnership (with no additional call on Exchequer funding) that will also provide commercial space for organisations wishing to locate themselves in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter. This area was recognised in March through a government-sponsored Science  and Innovation Audit as having one of the highest densities of knowledge-based business, cultural and scientific organisations anywhere in the world, with an economic output similar to that of the City of London.”[7]


Figure 36 Credit: The British Library, Caption: This is Dame Carol Black, Chairman of The British Library Board.


Figure 37 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is Liz Jolly, the Chief Librarian of The British Library.


Figure 38 Credit: Clara Molden, British Library Caption: This is Dr. Phil Hattfield, Head of the Eccles Centre, with Rachel Hewitt and Sara Taylor, co-winners of the 2019 Writer’s Award.


Figure 39 Credit: Clara Molden, British Library Caption: This is Rachel Hewitt and Sara Taylor, winners of the 2019 Eccles British Writer’s Award.


Figure 40 Credit: The British Library Caption: This tin trunk from the Granville Archive has intimate personal and family correspondence of the Leveson-Gower family over several generations.  It is now available for researchers to read for the first time.


Figure 41 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is Lord Granville’s copy of an unencrypted telegram Queen Victoria sent to her cabinet ministers when Khartoum fell and General Charles Gordon (1833-18885) fell to the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad’s army in 1885 – an event that shocked the world.


Figure 42 Credit: The British Library Caption: This is another document from the Granville Archive, a letter Lady Bessborough wrote in November of 1811 with a comment about Jane Austen’s novel Sense & Sensibility.   “God bless you dearest G.  Have you read Sense & Sensibility? It is a clever novel they were full of it at Althorp[8] – tho’ it ends stupidly I was much amus’d by it…”


Figure 43 Credit: Jan Kattein Architects Caption: The Story Garden was supposed to open for the first time for the Somers Town Festival on July 13, 2019.  A temporary stage called the Piazza Stage was also set up for the event.


Figure 44 Credit: The British Library Caption: These are flags Central Saint Martins students made for the Somers Town Festival.


[1] Described by some sources as Irish and by St. Bede as a Briton, St. Cuthbert was a monk and priest, who was, at various times, a missionary, prior of Melrose Abbey, Prior of Lindisfarne Abbey, a hermit, Bishop of Hexam, and Bishop of Lindisfarne.

[2] Note that Italy has two national libraries: the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma (Rome National Central Library) and the aforementioned Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (in Florence).

[3] Russia and Turkey are both transcontinental Eurasian countries with a small part of Turkey being in Europe and the majority of the country corresponding with Anatolia (Asia Minor) and a substantial part of Russia being in Europe but the larger part being in Asia.  Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are entirely in Asia.  Armenia and Georgia are both Christian countries.  As a matter of fact, Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 A.D.  Turkey and Albania are Sunni Muslim countries, while Azerbaijan is a Shia Muslim country.

[4] A socialist, he inherited the title Viscount Stansgate in 1960, which he renounced in 1963 under the Peerage Act of 1963 so he could remain in the House of Commons.  [His son has accepted the title.]  He was a Member of Parliament from 1963 to 2001, but for two different constituencies, as he represented Bristol South East from 1963 to 1983 and Chesterfield from 1984 to 2001.  In the administration of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, he served as Postmaster General from 1964 to ’66, Minister of Technology from 1966 to 1970, Secretary of State for Industry from 1974 to ’75, and as Secretary of State for Energy from 1975 to ’79.  Briefly, he served as Chairman of the Labour Party, from 1971 to ’72.  As President of the Stop the War Coalition, he opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and in 2003 interviewed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for British television station Channel 4.

[5] Built at the behest of Pope Clement VII (lived 1478-1534, reigned 1523-1534), a member of the Medici family, the Laurentian Library stands in a cloister of the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Ferenze.  Michelangelo (1475-1564) designed the building.

[6] The American publisher of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone changed the title to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  Consequently, when Warner Brothers adapted the film, in the U.S.A. the film was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

[7] The British Library, Annual Report and Accounts 2018-2019, p. 8

[8]For more than 500 years, the Althorp estate in Northamptonshire has been the primary residence of the Spencer family.  Since 1992, it has been owned by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer.  His late sister, Lady Diana Spencer (later Princess of Wales) lived there from the time her parents divorced until she married Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and Duke of Rothesay.

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