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The British Library (BL) is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is on the north side of Euston Road in St Pancras, London, between Euston railway station and St Pancras railway station. The Library is a public institution and is one of the world's largest research libraries. Since 2000 the Chief Executive of the British Library has been Lynne Brindley.
The British Library contains over 150 million items in every language that is known. It has around 25 million books, more than any other library except the American Library of Congress. It has manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC. There are books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and much more.
The British Library, by the law of the United Kingdom, receives copies of every book that is published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including all foreign books that are sold in the UK. It also buys many books which are only published outside Britain and Ireland. The British Library adds about three million items to its collection every year. The British Library has about 388 miles (625 km) of shelves.
The British Library, before it got its present name, started out as a group of collections made by several people in the 18th century and then given as part of a national library. The collectors were King George III, Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, and Robert Harley. The national library was part of the British Museum and was kept at various places, with some of the most important items always being on public display in the museum.
The British Library was created in 1973 by the British Library Act 1972. Since 1997 the main collection has been housed in a single new building on Euston Road next to St. Pancras railway station. In the middle of the building is a four-storey glass tower containing the ‘’King's Library’’, with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820.
Not all of the collection is kept in this new building. Part of the collection is at the Document Supply Centre in Yorkshire and all the newspapers from before 1800 are kept at the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London.
In December 2009 a new storage building at Boston Spa was opened. It cost £26million and will house seven million items, stored in more than 140,000 bar-coded containers, which are retrieved by robots, from the 262 kilometres of temperature- and humidity-controlled storage space.
Highlights of the collections
- The Stein collection from Central Asia.
- The Diamond Sutra, the world's earliest dated printed book printed in 868 during the Tang Dynasty
- The Lindisfarne Gospels, a famous illuminated manuscript
- Two Gutenberg Bibles, two of the earliest Bibles to be made on a printing press with movable type
- Two 1215 copies of Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in the history of England
- The Egerton Gospel
- The only ancient copy of the poem Beowulf
- 347 leaves of the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest Bible in the world
- Codex Alexandrinus
- The Codex Arundel, one of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks.
- William Tyndale's 1534 English translation New Testament, the personal copy of Anne Boleyn.
- Working manuscripts by J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, Arthur Sullivan, Gustav Mahler, Benjamin Britten and the Beatles.
- My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Musick by William Byrd, one of the two surviving collections of 16th century music for the virginal.
- Manuscript (Carroll's handwriting) of Alice's Adventures Under Ground by Lewis Carroll, which given to the British Library by a group of American book-collectors to honour the courage of the British people in World War II
- Encyclopædia Britannica Article: British Library
- The British Library: About us: Did you know?
- "Robots used at £26m British Library store". BBC. 2009-12-03. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_yorkshire/8393248.stm. Retrieved 04 December 2009.
- "Minister opens British Library’s new £26 million storage facility in Yorkshire – the most advanced in the world.". British Library. 2009-12-03. http://www.bl.uk/news/2009/pressrelease20091203a.html. Retrieved 04 December 2009.
- BL, Facts & figures
- "Beowulf: sole surviving manuscript". The British Library. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/englit/beowulf/. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- Let There be Light