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The British Library, London

The British Library has a vast collection of books, magazines, prints, drawings, and sound recordings. The size of the complete collection is around 150 million items. Many famous items of national importance can be seen in the Library's galleries. When I last visited, amongst the hundreds of exhibits, the following were on display: The First Folio of Shakespeare's plays, the ship's log of HMS Victory, Captain Cook's journal, Captain Scott's diary, and the earliest dated printed book, the Diamond Sutra. There was a display of hand written early versions of famous Beatles lyrics, which included Yesterday, Here, There and Everywhere, A Hard Days Night, and In My Life. The Magna Carta, the historic document signed by King John in 1215, recognising that kings are subject to law, has its own special display room. The copy of the Magna Carta signed by King John has not survived, but there are four contemporary copies in existence, and one of the four is on permanent display at the Library.

The British Library itself is a relatively new institution. Plans were finalised in 1977, and the library finally opened in 1998. The Library took over the library work of a number of other national institutions, the most famous being the British Museum. The British Museum's Department of Printed Books was founded in 1753, and many famous people studied in its domed Reading Room. These include Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Karl Marx and Lenin. Lenin's original application to become a reader at the library, under the name of Jacob Richter, can be seen at the galleries in the new British Library. The old reading room at the British Museum survives, and is now an information centre, housing the Paul Hamlyn Library on world cultures. The Reading Room is open to all visitors.

Newspapers since 1801are stored at the British Library Newspaper Library.



Opening Times: Opening arrangements for various departments at The British Library are complex. Please see the official web site at

Address: The British Library, St Pancras, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Directions: The library is at St Pancras in Euston Road, London. The most convenient Underground stations are Kings Cross/St Pancreas, Euston and Euston Square. Buses 10, 30, 73 and 91 run past the library. There is no car parking for visitors outside the library. The nearest car parks are in Marchmont Street and Judd Street. There are limited spaces for coaches: ring ahead to confirm. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on the British Library.

Access: There are four designated parking bays for orange or blue badge holders near Gate 5 in Midland Road, and three bays in Ossulston Street. There is level access at Gate 5 in Midland Road, and at the Portico in Ossulston Street. There is a ramp to the Main Entrance, and the doors in the middle are automatic. Inside the library there are ramps and lifts which can accommodate standard sized wheelchairs. Lifts have vocal announcements and controls set at a height convenient for wheelchair users. Assistance dogs are welcome. Wheelchairs can be hired. Induction loops are installed in many areas. There are adapted toilets on all floors.


telephone: 0843 208 1144

customer services: 01937 546060

minicom: 01937 546434

web site:





©2006 InfoBritain (updated 11/12)