The British Library

Top 30 things in Camden: The British Library

Asides from being the UK’s national library, The British Library is one of the largest research libraries in the world. This vast, Grade 1 listed building is home to every kind of information format imaginable, from journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers to sound recordings in all written and spoken languages; you name it, they have it. Their collection has developed for over 250 years and exceeds 150 million items. Oh, and of course they have over 14 million books. 

For many years the collection was dispersed throughout London, hosted in various institutions throughout Central London such as the British Museum and The National Central Library. It was centralized in 1973, and later moved to St. Pancras. Designed by John Wilson, the new and improved British Library was inspired and designed specifically for its purpose. In the middle of the building, a vast glass structure rises up: the famous ‘King’s Library Tower’ containing part of King George the 3rd’s assembly of scholarly texts and pamphlets from the Age of Enlightenment. It is the proverbial ‘spinal cord’ of the library. 

The library offers free access to its reading rooms, which are open to anyone who can provide an address and a detailed reading list. Surrounded by the quiet buzz of people scribbling and thoughts whirring, this is an excellent place to get some work done. 

As well as being a world-class information hub to the academic, business, research and scientific communities the Library also offers public exhibitions, events and workshops. Key publicly displayed ‘treasures’ include the 300 year old library of King George III, the Magna Carta, original transcripts of Alice in Wonderland and sound recordings of Florence Nightingale. The Sir John Ritblat Gallery is open to the general public for free, ever day of the week! Here you can see original manuscripts of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, or Virginia Woolf’s Miss Dalloway. 

The library hosts regular events, talks, workshops, conferences, performances, rotating exhibitions and even podcasts that are worth attending; check out what’s on! More into workshops? The British Library offers all kinds of fun things to learn, like how to become a conservationist, mini-master classes for social media strategies in business, or how to start up your own coffee bar!
Tired after a full day of straining your brain and getting through those books? The best thing about the British Museum is the plaza: this is the place to sit down and rest your eyes for a little while on one of the expertly designed terraces. Take a moment to relax and admire the statue of Isaac Newton by artist and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi while sipping away at a coffee or a craft beer from the little café. The British Library has it all.

British Library books

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