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.
Archive, Gallery, Library
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
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.
World Cultures, Social History, Science and Technology, Religion, Personalities, Music, Literature, Decorative and Applied Art, Archives, Weapons and War
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.
- Family friendly
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.
- Family friendly
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.
- Any age
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
Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun
- 14 October 2016 — 12 February 2017 *on now
Performing pigs, magic tricks and pantomime! Roll up to celebrate some of the most popular entertainments of Victorian times performed in a variety of venues from fairground tents to musical stages.
Focusing on five colourful characters, follow their stories as we bring the worlds they inhabited to life. These Victorian A-listers include Dan Leno, the original pantomime dame and ‘funniest man on earth’, John Nevil Maskelyne, magician and manager of ‘England’s Home of Mystery’, and the great circus showman ‘Lord’ George Sanger. Also hear of those whose fame has now faded such as Annie De Montford, a mill worker turned mesmerist, and Evanion the Royal conjuror.
Step back in time with wonderfully decorative original posters, handbills, advertisements and tickets – all glorious examples of rare ephemera – alongside contemporary film and sound recordings. Explore the Victorians’ influence on the world of entertainment today. Without them we might never have experienced the joys of panto, stand-up comedy and even Britain’s Got Talent.
Every Saturday (15 October – 17 December, 15.00 – 17.00), a company of actors and performers will present archive material from the exhibition through the prism of contemporary performance.
Contemporary performance supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England
- Family friendly
- Especially for children
Alien, Foreigner, Migrant: The language of immigration in the Victorian media
- 5 December 2016 12:30-1:30pm
The British media’s depiction of immigration has recently come under scrutiny, in particular their choice of terminology. However, we know surprisingly little about the language which the press of the past associated with migration.
In this talk Ruth Byrne will explore how the language surrounding immigration shifted in Victorian England. We will see how the tone of the press changed in the years prior to the 1905 Aliens Act, Britain’s first restrictive immigration legislation.
This timely and revealing analysis is based on Ruth’s current PhD research project, which uses corpus linguistic software to provide a fresh perspective on the British Library’s 19th Century Newspapers database (approx. 50 billion words). Corpus software allows the analysis of very large texts, much larger than can feasibly be read by hand alone. For historical research, this opens up exciting possibilities, dramatically extending the scale of the questions we can ask of our sources.
A collaborative project between the British Library and the University of Lancaster, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Ruth’s PhD thesis explores “Attitudes to immigrants in the 19th century: Using very large historical corpora for socio-historical research."
Please bring your packed lunch. Tea, coffee and cake will be provided.
- Not suitable for children
- 5 December 2016 7-8:30pm
Four writers explore the portrayal of Jews in American literature. Zachary Leader, the acclaimed biographer of Saul Bellow, Devorah Baum, author of the forthcoming Feeling Jewish and Howard Jacobson, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Finkler Question discuss how evocations of Jewishness might affect social perceptions. The conversation is chaired by Adam Thirlwell, novelist and London editor of The Paris Review.
Sponsored by the Royal Society of Literature and Hawthornden Charitable Trust
- Any age
Full Price: £10, Senior 60+: £8, Student: £7, Registered Unemployed: £7, Under 18: £7, Friend of the BL: £7
Campaign! Make an Impact
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.
96 Euston Road
01937 546 546
Events Box Office