Bookish Travels – British Library

Over the summer I was fortunate enough to travel across Europe, and along the way I encountered many a wonderful library and bookstore, which I thought I shall share with you. The plan was to do this weekly, until I exhaust the places I actually visited, and then start up with some places I’d like to go. But with all good plans, as evident with my distinct lack of posts of the last few months, this will likely just be a periodic thing. 

To start off with: The British Library

96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB

The British Library

As one of Britain’s six legal deposits, it gets a copy of every work published within the UK and Ireland. For that reason, it’s collection is massive, and given it’s long history, it contains a lot of very rare books and manuscripts. Such as, 2 copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, two Gutenburg bibles, Diamond Sutra (the world’s earliest printed book), the only surviving copy of Beowulf, a notebook by Leonardo da Vinci, and so much more. The cool thing is, that many of these treasures are displayed for you to view in the treasure’s exhibition.

There are also other regular exhibitions, some are free, others you will need to pay for. When I visited, there was a free Alice in Wonderland exhibit, showing some of the original versions, and various paraphernalia produced over the years.

This isn’t a library you can borrow from, and it (sadly) isn’t one where you can walk through the collection. But it is open to the public, so if you want to view a book, you’ll have to request a reader’s card, and (I believe) request which item you want to view.

There are extensive online digital collections to explore at http://www.bl.uk

Not too far away - 221B Baker Street
Not too far away – 221B Baker Street (and Platform 9 and 3/4)

Some cool stats:

  • Over 150 million items, with 3 million new items every year (making it (probably) the largest library in the world)
  • Over 625 km of shelving
  • I love this one – If you see 5 items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the collection

It was very cool to see some of the the very rare and unique items in their collection, just mind blowing. Definitely worth a visit if you are in London.

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