Monday, October 23, 2006

British Library - London

British Library in London

This photo of the British Library in London is part of one of the panoramic images found on the Tour of London. There are over 100 images taken from around London linked to an interactive map.

Plan your visit to London by taking advantage of these London Hotel Specials or Thomson City Breaks.

The British Library, home to the Lindisfarne Gospels, Two Gutenberg Bibles, Two 1215 copies of Magna Carta, the Egerton Gospel, the only surviving manuscript copy of the poem Beowulf and 347 leaves of the Codex Sinaiticus. And that is just the start, though some of the highlights, of one of the largest collections of manuscripts and other articles in the world.

The British Library is now housed in a purpose built building near to Kings Cross station. You pass through huge iron gates into a courtyard and then into the building itself. On your left will be a large crouching bronze called Newton, after William Blake. This can not be seen in this image, which shows the front of the British Library itself, a staggered and tiered red brick event which not many people have fallen in love with. However it is worth pressing onto the interior where there are often exhibitions and fantastic displays.

The British Library means different things to different people. It actually refers to a collection of books, which started off in 1753 as a department of the British Museum. Over the next 200 years or so the collection at the British Museum grew into one of the largest in the world. This was helped by the fact that it was entitled by law to obtain, for free, a copy of almost every item printed in the UK, be they books, periodicals, maps newspapers or sheet music. So vast was the ‘British Library’ collection that in Lenin declared it contained more Russian books than the libraries of Moscow or St. Petersburg. In 1983 the library expanded yet further with the addition of the National Sound Archive.

So how vast is it now? Well, 150 million items, including 25 million books, would keep most collectors happy. But this library continues to expand at a rate of some 3 million items annually. The collection includes manuscripts and documents that date back to 300 BC, thus the British Library has become not only a collection of books, but a vast museum as well.

The library inevitably outgrew it’s location in the British Museum and in the late 20C was moved to the current location in St. Pancreas, into a new building that cost some £496 million. The King's Library is also housed here in a 3 storey glass tower. This collection itself has some 65,000 books apart from other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps, all collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820.

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The image here shows part of the front of the British Library. The full panoramic image can be found on the London tour by An enlargement of this photo can be found on Flickr.

For more articles on London see the London Index or select one of the labels at the bottom.

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