British Library

Photograph of exterior of British Library, bronze statue in foreground
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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and one of the world's greatest libraries. Set up in 1973, with galleries formerly in the British Museum building, it moved to its spectacular flagship new home at St Pancras in Central London in 1997.

The John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library, PACCAR Gallery of Living Words and the Workshop of Words, Sound and Images offer permanent displays and a changing programme of special thematic exhibitions. We also have the best permanent display of stamps and philately in the world.

The King's Library, housed in a 17-metre glass-walled tower at the heart of the building, plus a number of major works of art, can be seen by all visitors. The Library also offers a wide programme of events, including talks, music and discussions, all developing themes and ideas associated with the collections.

Venue Type:

Archive, Gallery, Library

Opening hours

Mon - Thu 09:30-20:00
Fri 09:30 - 18:00
Sat 09:30 - 17:00
Sun 11:00 - 17:00

Closed: 24 - 28 December, 1 January

Admission charges

FREE ENTRY to the Library

Major exhibitions are charged
Permanent Treasures Gallery FREE

The British Library is custodian of the most important research collection in the world, spanning almost 3,000 years and every continent. This covers books, journals, manuscripts, stamps, patents, sound recordings, printed music and maps.

The John Ritblat Gallery is home to a permanent exhibition of over 200 of the Library's most significant items. These include the Codex Sinaiticus (c. 350), Magna Carta (1215), the Gutenberg Bible (1455), and Shakespeare's First Folio (1623) as well as religious, literary, historical and musical works in the handwriting of Leonardo da Vinci, Lord Nelson, Lewis Carroll, Handel, Sir Paul McCartney and many others.

The award-winning Turning the Pages was developed by the Library and uses high quality digitised images to simulate actually turning the pages of a precious book. The PACCAR Gallery is home to temporary exhibitions. The Workshop of Words, Sound and Images is an interactive gallery which traces the story of book production and sound recording.

Collection details

World Cultures, Social History, Science and Technology, Religion, Personalities, Music, Literature, Decorative and Applied Art, Archives, Weapons and War

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.

The Philatelic Exhibition

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

The Philatelic Exhibition of 80,000 items on the upper ground floor offers a unique opportunity to see many great rarities.

Currently on display are:
The Tapling Collection World to 1890; exhibited are countries M - Z on 2,400 pages (countries A - L are available to researchers by appointment)
The Mosely Collection of British Africa to 1935
The Bojanowicz Collection of Poland 1939 - 1946 stamps and postal history
The Model Collection of Germany 1945 - 1946 local provisional stamps
The Harrison Collection of die proofs 1911 -1937, engraved by J.A.C. Harrison
The Davies Collection of Libyan revenue stamps 1955 - 1969
The Fitz Gerald Collection of World Airmails to the 1930s (selected pages)
The Bailey Collection of Spanish Civil War stamps and postal history 1936 - 1939 (selected pages)
The Turner Collection of Great Britain and Ireland Railway Letter Stamps 1891 - 1940 (selected pages)
The Langmead Collection of Great Britain and Ireland Telegraph stamps, 1851 - 1881

An associated book, The British Library Treasures in Focus: Stamps, is available from the Shop.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

http://www.bl.uk/events/the-philatelic-exhibition

Treasures of the British Library

  • 1 November 2014 — 1 November 2018 *on now

The Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery hosts more than 200 beautiful and fascinating items: magnificent hand-painted books from many faiths, maps and views, early printed books, literary, historical, scientific and musical works from over the centuries and around the world.

Half of the items now on display have not been seen by the public for many years.

Suitable for

  • Family friendly

Website

http://www.bl.uk/events/treasures-of-the-british-library

Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

  • 4 November 2016 — 1 March 2017 *on now

That’s because 100 years of mapping technology – from the original sketch of today’s London Underground to the satellite imagery of the 1990s – has monitored and shaped the society we live in.

Two World Wars. The moon landings. The digital revolution. This exhibition of extraordinary maps looks at the important role they played during the 20th century. It sheds new light on familiar events and spans conflicts, creativity, the ocean floor and even outer space.

It includes exhibits ranging from the first map of the Hundred Acre Wood to secret spy maps, via the New York Subway. And, as technology advances further than we ever imagined possible, it questions what it really means to have your every move mapped.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full Price: £12, Senior 60+: £10, Student: £5, Registered Unemployed: £5, Disabled: £5, Disabled Carer: free, Under 18: free, Friend of the British Library: free

Website

http://bit.ly/2d2zHsf

Quentin Blake: The Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits

Quentin Blake: The Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits

  • 5 January — 21 May 2017 *on now

To mark this phizz-whizzing anniversary, Sir Quentin Blake has drawn special portraits of some of the most celebrated characters from Dahl’s stories including Matilda, Charlie Bucket and the BFG. Find out which filthsome couple declined to appear together and which character quietly disapproved of the whole business as the British Library unveils the Roald Dahl Portraits.

‘I hope visitors to the British Library will be happy to see this group of well-known characters treated as though they were real people - which, of course, to many of us they are.’ - Sir Quentin Blake

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Free

Website

http://bit.ly/2i69zv9

Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Julian Mitchell

Julian Mitchell in Conversation with Polly Toynbee

  • 23 February 2017 7-9:30pm

Julian Mitchell began his playwriting career adapting novels for performance, starting with several novels by Ivy Compton-Burnett. He adapted Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Paul Scott’s Staying On and Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier for television. Among his original works, he is best known for his play, Another Country, recently revived in the West End and on tour. The Library has recently acquired his archive, including his diaries and correspondence.

The archive includes successive drafts of Julian’s work providing a real insight into his creative process and the subjects which inspired him. In addition, the archive includes correspondence with a wide range of people from theatre and television including the actors John Gielgud and Alec Guinness, the American writer, Philip Roth and the poet, Stephen Spender. A series of personal diaries, photographs and press cuttings are also included.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £12, Member: £8, Senior 60+: £10, Student: £8, Registered Unemployed: £8, Under 18: £8, Friend of the BL: £8

Website

http://bit.ly/2h3I4Wy

Japan Now

Japan Now

  • 25 February 2017 11am-5pm

Japan Now returns to the British Library with a packed day exploring contemporary writing and culture from this fascinating country.

Alex Kerr, author of Lost Japan, reflects on the beauty and destruction of the Japanese landscape, and leading writers, including Hiromi Kawakami, author of Strange Weather in Tokyo, Masatsugu Ono and Yoko Tawada read from new work, alongside artists who view Japan through the lens of film and photography.

Programmed by Modern Culture in partnership with the Japan Foundation and Writers’ Centre Norwich and supported by Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, the Nippon Foundation and the Japan Society

Suitable for

  • 18+

Admission

Full price: £20, Member: £20, Senior 60+: £16, Student: £14, Registered Unemployed: £14, Under 18: £14

Website

http://bit.ly/2hiVDgT

Kenneth Baker

Kenneth Baker: On the Burning of Books

  • 3 March 2017 7-8:30pm

The political sage Kenneth Baker, in an illustrated lecture, records the many times throughout history when books have been burnt for political, religious, or personal reasons. Ranging politically from Ancient China and the Nazis to Animal Farm and Chairman Mao; religiously, from the Spanish destruction of the Aztec civilisation to Bloody Mary or from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses to Bibles in Islamist strongholds today; and personally, from Samuel Pepys and Lord Byron to Dickens’ letters, Hardy’s poems, Burton’s translations and Philip Larkin’s diaries. Baker reveals that although books, diaries and letters can be burnt, thanks to the invention of the printing press in the 16th century, very rarely can their content be expunged from the written record in history - the ‘delete’ button did not delete. Book burning today survives as a symbol, usually by desperate regimes, dictators or religious fanatics to impress the naive, warn the dissenter or rally the faithful.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £12, Member: £8, Senior 60+: £10, Student: £8, Registered Unemployed: £8, Under 18: £8, Friend of the BL: £8

Website

http://bit.ly/2hKg3Te

Wendy Moore

The Mesmerist: Science vs Superstition in the Victorian era

  • 6 March 2017 7:15-8:30pm

If you needed a tumour removed or a leg amputated in the early 1800s, the most surgeons could offer as pain relief was a large swig of brandy. Even less effective, physicians relied on leeches, cupping and toxic potions. So when mesmerism wafted over the Channel from France, physician John Elliotson was intrigued and resolved to harness its benefits for medicine. But his surgeon friend Thomas Wakley, editor of the influential Lancet, was disturbed and soon determined to expunge all trace of mesmerism from British shores.

Their battle throws into sharp focus fundamental questions about the fine dividing line between medicine and quackery, between science and superstition, in a Victorian society bedazzled by the magic of the music hall. And it poses questions – about hypnotism and other alternative therapies - for us today too.

Join Wendy Moore, author of Wedlock, as she tells the story of two pioneering men of science against the background of a nation in thrall to mesmerism.

Wendy Moore is a freelance journalist and author. Her first book, The Knife Man, won the Medical Journalists' Association Consumer Book Award in 2005 and was shortlisted for both the Saltire and Marsh Biography Awards. Her second book, Wedlock, has been highly acclaimed in reviews and was chosen as one of the 10 titles in the Channel 4 TV Book Club. How To Create The Perfect Wife was published to rapturous reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £8, Member: £8, Senior 60+: £6, Student: £5, Registered Unemployed: £5, Under 18: £5

Website

http://bit.ly/2hYija3

Lara Feigel

The Art of Non-Fiction

  • 6 March 2017 7-8:30pm

As non-fiction writers become more innovative in finding new structures and voices with which to tell their stories, how do they decide on their approach? What are the literary models on which they draw? Join our panel of authors as they discuss the art of non-fiction today.

Olivia Laing is the author of The Lonely City, The Trip to Echo Spring, shortlisted for the Costa biography prize, and To the River.

Hisham Matar’s first novel, In the Country of Men, won several prizes, including the 2007 RSL Ondaatje Prize. Last year he published The Return, which takes us on a journey to find his father. It won the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize and was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Prize.

Lara Feigel is the author of The Love-charm of Bombs and The Bitter Taste of Victory, in both of which she writes history with the structure of a novel.

Their conversation is chaired by Lisa Appignanesi, author of Trials of Passion and Mad, Bad and Sad, which has expanded the creative possibilities of the Freudian case history.

This event is followed by a book signing. In partnership with The Royal Society of Literature and the Centre for Modern Literature and Culture at King’s College London

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £10, Member: £10, Senior 60+: £8, Student: £7, Registered Unemployed: £7, Under 18: £7

Website

http://bit.ly/2hKdPmH

Typesetting Feminism: Virago Press

Typesetting Feminism: Virago Press

  • 7 March 2017 7-8:30pm

An evening of discussion and film on the eve of International Women's Day with Carmen Callil, Lennie Goodings and Claire Whalley. In 1973, inspired by the radical feminist magazine Spare Rib, 30-year-old publicist Carmen Callil shook the foundations of the publishing world by setting up her own women’s publishing house, aiming to make a revolutionary change by giving women a voice, by giving them back their history and reclaiming women’s literature. Carmen Callil, founder of Virago Press, discusses Virago's journey with its current publisher, Lennie Goodings, and Claire Whalley, Managing Director of What Larks Productions, who recently made Virago: Changing The World One Page At A Time, a documentary film charting this history. Extracts from the film will also be screened as part of the event.
This event celebrates the British Library’s recent acquisition of the Carmen Callil Archive, which joins the previously held Virago Archive.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £8, Member: £8, Senior 60+: £6, Student: £5, Registered Unemployed: £5, Under 18: £5

Website

http://bit.ly/2i4yeAS

Rebels in the Archives

Rebels in the Archives

  • 8 March 2017 7-8:45pm

The British Library celebrates International Women's Day with a conversation on the power and potential of archiving feminist movements as Jill Liddington, Abi Morgan, Heidi Safia Mirza and Deborah Withers discuss their engagement with archives of activism. Margaretta Jolly, project director of Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement, chairs this panel of influential feminists as they debate questions of politics, representation and preservation.

Jill Liddington is a writer, historian and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leeds.

Abi Morgan is a BAFTA and Emmy Award winning writer and producer.

Heidi Safia Mirza is Professor of Race, Faith and Culture.

Deborah Withers is a writer, curator, researcher and publisher.

Margaretta Jolly is a Reader in Cultural Studies and director of the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research, University of Sussex.

In association with the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £8, Member: £5, Senior 60+: £6, Student: £5, Registered Unemployed: £5, Under 18: £5, Friend of the BL: £5

Website

http://bit.ly/2i4pudI

National Life Stories Lecture 2017

National Life Stories Lecture 2017: David Kynaston

  • 13 March 2017 6:30-8pm

Uncovering the unspoken: memory and post-war Britain reflects on memory and its place in the historical analysis of post-war British society.

David Kynaston has been a professional historian since 1973 and has written 18 books, including The City of London, a widely acclaimed four-volume history which drew on National Life Stories’ ‘City Lives’ oral history interviews. He is also the author of Austerity Britain, Family Britain, and Modernity Britain, the first three titles in a series of books covering the history of post-war Britain (1945-1979) under the collective title Tales of a New Jerusalem. Austerity Britain was named ‘Book of the Decade’ by The Sunday Times. He is an honorary professor at Kingston University.

National Life Stories (NLS) is an independent charitable trust within the British Library whose expertise and focus is oral history fieldwork. Established in 1987, NLS has initiated a series of innovative interviewing projects funded almost entirely from sponsorship, charitable and individual donations. Initiated in 2014, this lecture series provides a platform for leading scholars and thinkers to share original and challenging ideas about oral history theory, methodologies and practices.

In partnership with National Life Stories

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £10, Member: £7, Senior 60+: £8, Student: £7, Registered Unemployed: £7, Under 18: £7, Friend of the BL: £7

Website

http://bit.ly/2huutng

Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad Study Day

  • 13 March 2017 2-5:30pm

This study day considers Conrad’s career as a novelist and his contribution to British culture in the year that has been designated ‘Joseph Conrad Year’ in Poland. Joseph Conrad, probably now best known as the author of Heart of Darkness and The Secret Agent, was born in 1857 at a time when Poland had been divided between Austria, Prussia and Russia. He first came to Britain in 1878 as an apprentice on a British steamer. He spent the next sixteen years in the British Merchant Navy before beginning his career as a novelist with Almayer’s Folly.
Professor Robert Hampson FEA, FRSA initiates an afternoon of expert discussion with a lecture on Conrad as ‘England’s Polish Genius’, followed by a conversation around ‘Conrad and London’ and a panel of novelists, including Giles Foden, discussing Conrad’s influence on their work.

In association with the British Council and the Joseph Conrad Society (UK)

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £15, Member: £10, Senior 60+: £12, Student: £10, Registered Unemployed: £10, Under 18: £10, Friend of the BL: £10

Website

http://bit.ly/2iiByaC

In Praise of Unusual Libraries

The Idler Presents: In Praise of Unusual Libraries

  • 17 March 2017 7-8:30pm

Tom is joined by Meirian Jump of the Marx Memorial Library and Workers’ School in Clerkenwell, Peter Francis of Gladstone’s Residential Library in North Wales, and Sara Wingate-Gray, UCL academic and the Itinerant Poetry Librarian. Learn about these refuges for quiet study and help plan more libraries.

In association with The Idler

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £8, Member: £8, Senior 60+: £6, Student: £5, Registered Unemployed: £5, Under 18: £5

Website

http://bit.ly/2hfHHIO

Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig: European, Humanist, Collector

  • 20 March 2017 10:30am-4pm

A study day to mark the 75th anniversary of the death of Stefan Zweig

The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was one of the most widely read and translated authors of his day. Zweig is less well known for owning a prestigious collection of literary, musical and historical manuscripts, which was most generously donated to the British Library by his heirs in 1986. The collection comprises autograph musical scores from composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner, as well as original manuscripts of authors including Goethe, Balzac and Byron.

Join experts on Zweig as they discuss the cosmopolitan writer’s hopes for European unity and how his manuscript collection – his ‘magical circle of sublime figures’ – came to express these ideals. The study day commemorates the 75th anniversary of Zweig’s death, a death that was in part a result of his years in exile and thus his disconnection from the European culture he realised was lost to him forever. A new catalogue of the British Library’s Stefan Zweig Collection of Literary and Historical Manuscripts will be launched at a reception following the study day.

An accompanying display in the Treasures Gallery will showcase some of the treasures from Zweig’s collection.

Suitable for

  • 18+

Admission

Full price: £10, Member: £10, Senior 60+: £8, Student: £7, Registered Unemployed: £7, Under 18: £7

Website

http://bit.ly/2i4G6SO

Music and poetry from the Zweig Collection

Music and poetry from the Zweig Collection

  • 20 March 2017 From 7pm

An evening of live music and readings, showcasing some of the ‘Sublime Figures’ - composers and writers – who are included in Stefan Zweig’s collection of manuscripts, now held at the British Library. The collection includes masterpieces by Mozart, Bellini, Keats, Goethe and Balzac. The British Library’s curators select some of their favourite works and bring them to life.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £10, Member: £7, Senior 60+: £8, Student: £7, Registered Unemployed: £7, Under 18: £7, Friend of the BL: £7

Website

http://bit.ly/2hutbZr

The Eccles British Library Writer's Award Festival

The Eccles British Library Writer's Award Festival

  • 23 March 2017 7-9pm

The award (formerly Writer in Residence) of £20,000 is presented annually to two authors whose writing projects depend substantially on materials in the British Library’s collection relating to North America. There have been 12 winners of the award, six of whom will have published their volumes by the end of 2017: Naomi Wood, Mrs Hemingway; Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World; Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone; Sheila Rowbotham, Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States; John Burnside, Ashland and Vine; and Erica Wagner, Chief Engineer: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge. Six other books are underway, by Benjamin Markovits, Sarah Churchwell, Alison MacLeod, Will Atkins, Hannah Kohler and Bob Stanley. All the authors will gather for a one-night mini literary festival and discussion celebrating their work. Publication of a set of portraits of the authors made by Eccles Photography Fellow, Alexander McIntyre will be launched at the same time.

The event will include a wine reception.

Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £12, Member: £8, Senior 60+: £10, Student: £8, Registered Unemployed: £8, Under 18: £8, Friend of the BL: £8

Website

http://bit.ly/2hcYquu

Will Self

On Being Archived: Will Self, Hanif Kureishi and Guests

  • 24 March 2017 7-8:30pm

His archive includes drafts of novels, his cartoons, a full hard-drive, family documents and letters received from other writers. At this event he meets Hanif Kureishi, also archived at the Library, to explore the experience of passing on much of one’s life’s work to the national collection, where it is joining that of Harold Pinter, John Berger, J G Ballard, Joan Bakewell, and many others.

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £12, Member: £12, Senior 60+: £10, Student: £8, Registered Unemployed: £8, Under 18: £8

Website

http://bit.ly/2hus64a

Iain Sinclair

Encore: The Phenomenon of the Second Novel

  • 28 March 2017 7-8:30pm

Some novelists hit a remarkable seam on their second outings, and among the second novels that have earned their place in history are The Mill on the Floss, Pride and Prejudice, The Master and Margarita, Fahrenheit 451 and Midnight’s Children.

The £10,000 Encore Award for the best second novel of the year was first awarded in 1990 and is sponsored by Lucy Astor. The award fills a niche in the catalogue of literary prizes by celebrating the achievement of outstanding second novels. Past recipients include RSL Fellows Colm Toíbín, Anne Enright, Ali Smith and most recently in 2015, Sunjeev Sahota for his book The Year of the Runaways which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In a conversation chaired by literary journalist Alex Clark, one of this year’s judges, Nikita Lalwani and past winners Iain Sinclair and Evie Wyld speak about the pleasures and pitfalls of writing and reading fictional follow-ups.

The shortlist for the 2017 RSL Encore Award will be announced at this event.

In partnership with The Royal Society of Literature

Suitable for

  • Any age

Admission

Full price: £10, Member: £10, Senior 60+: £8, Student: £7, Registered Unemployed: £7, Under 18: £7

Website

http://bit.ly/2hYCWTd

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Campaign! Make an Impact

http://www.bl.uk/campaign

This national cross-curricular programme uses history to inspire young people into active citizenship. Historical campaigns inspire and teach campaign skills, enabling children and young people to run their own campaigns about issues that affect them today. It’s based around a three step model on our website.
Students can explore campaign skills, and learn how campaigners have constructed their messages in creative ways. There is guidance on how to plan and carry out your campaign.

In the Teachers and Museums section you can find out more about how the model works and how your organisation can get involved.

British Library
96 Euston Road
London
Greater London
NW1 2DB
England

Website

www.bl.uk

Shop

www.bl.uk/shop

E-mail

Customer services

Customer-Services@bl.uk

Telephone

Customer Services

01937 546 546

Events Box Office

01937 546546

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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