Today’s adventure was to the British Library in London. The British Library used to be part of the British Museum but seperated in the 1970s and it’s new home, just down from King’s Cross Station, officially opened in 1998. The building is gigantic with many floors below ground for storage. Construction took place around the underground below to make room for the library’s large collection. This library’s collection is so large because by law they have to have a physical copy of everything that has been published in Great Britain, including Ireland. Any newspaper, book magazine, etc. A lot of materials are kept at another site that is stories upon stories tall to hold their growing collection of 8000 items a day. Just like the Victoria and Albert Art Library, the British Library shelves items by size rather than topic to save space. This practice also saves time since they receive so many materials a day they would spend a lot of time shifting items to fit the new ones.
Fancy that, another library that has space issues.
Can you tell I am excited?
So far this library has my favourite collection of items. In the centre of the library there is a huge display called the “King’s Library” which was the personal library of King George III. He spent 1/5 of his personal wealth on books and the collection shows for it. There are over 85,000 items in the collection spanning centuries and continents. His son, George IV, was not a reader and donated the collection on the condition that it would be kept together and on display. Books can be accessed from this display but you must have a good reason to want to look at it. Maybe a note from a professor or you yourself may be an expert in your field and would have reason to see the items in person.
This picture does not do the collection justice. I recommend googling a more impressive image.
The library has a “Treasures of the British Library” display with 200 of their greatest pieces. This includes a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, the Linisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook (were he wrote notes in mirror image Latin) and handwritten Beatles lyrics. It was amazing to actually see these items in person. Having an degree in history I had heard so much about these items but to see them in person was unexplainable.
What I loved most about this library was how it was a reading library. These items, some very priceless, are meant to be read. It does not matter who you are you can access the items, though for the more rare and priceless ones a good reason must be provided. I defiantly recommend checking this library out. It has been my favourite stop so far.
P.S. It is so nice to be around people that understand libraries and books and the value they have to culture and knowledge.