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With more than one million books and periodicals in over 50 languages, the collection includes works from the 16th century to the latest publications in print and electronic form.


  • Over 50 leading names featuring in Words In The Square festival 6-8 May 2016
  • Tom Stoppard to open proceedings in St. James’s Square as The London Library turns 175
  • Tickets now on sale for an amazing three days in May!

During a very special week in May, London’s beautiful St. James’s Square will be playing host to a memorable line-up of events designed to commemorate the 175th anniversary of The London Library – the square’s longest-standing resident and one of the world’s great literary institutions.

The Library first opened its doors on 3rd May 1841 and at the heart of a week of festivities is Words In The Square – a three-day celebration from 6th-8th May exploring the worlds of books and ideas and featuring some of the biggest names in literature and the arts.

Directed by writer and director James Runcie and by historian David Kynaston, Words In The Square features 16 fascinating talks, debates and discussions on literature and writing, history, art, comedy, science – and cricket! 

The line-up of speakers – which features a number of London Library members – includes:

Friday 6th May

  • Diane Atkinson, Ian Hislop, David Kynaston, Lucy Lethbridge, Tom Stoppard, Claire Tomalin and Jerry White looking at life in 1841 (the year The London Library was founded)
  • Sarah Dunant, Charlotte Higgins, Tom Holland and Bettany Hughes discussing the importance of the classical world to an understanding of the present
  • Susan Greenfield, Roger Kneebone, Rick Stroud and Jenny Uglow on making connections in scientific research
  • Antony Beevor examining the changing nature of modern warfare
  • Victoria Hislop, Nick Hornby, Elif Shafak and Joanna Trollope exploring their personal motivations for writing
  • A gala evening, with Tom Stoppard in discussion with his biographer Hermione Lee

Saturday 7th May

  • Alex Clark, Sebastian Faulks and Sophie Hannah looking at the increasingly popular genre of continuity novels
  • Simon Brett, Martin Edwards, James Runcie and Kate Summerscale examining the continued allure of fictional crime writing
  • Andrew Graham-Dixon celebrating the genius of J.M.W. Turner
  • Mike Atherton, Mike Brearley, Ramachandra Guha, Emma John and Tim Rice exploring the rich literature of cricket
  • Alan Johnson, Candia McWilliam and William Waldegrave providing their own personal reflections on the craft of writing memoirs
  • Craig Brown and friends Eleanor Bron and Lewis MacLeod presenting a fun-packed gala evening of comedy, satire and storytelling, with special guest Dillie Keane

Sunday 8th May

  • Lara Feigel, Juliet Gardiner and Max Hastings examine the history and mythology of London and the Blitz
  • Simon Russell Beale, Simon Callow, Nicholas Hytner, Natascha McElhone and Harriet Walter look at how they bring characters to life
  • Ned Beauman, Philippa Gregory, Deborah Levy, John O’Farrell, Nikesh Shukla and Sara Wheeler explain their favourite reads to Tom Sutcliffe
  • Simon Schama talks about the books that have shaped his style, his storytelling and his life


Tickets for Words In The Square events go on public sale from 18th February with proceeds going towards supporting the Library, its extraordinary building and its amazing collection of over one million books.

Visitors are able to choose between single event tickets (from £17.50) or Day passes (a range of Day passes are available with a 5 event pass costing £70). Tickets for the fundraising gala evenings on Friday and Saturday can be purchased for £45 and £30 respectively.

All bookings can be made on-line via www.londonlibrary175.eventbrite.co.uk,


Words In The Square would not have been possible without the help and support of a group of committed sponsors: Carey Adina Karmel, Gabbitas Educational Consultants, Handelsbanken, Haworth Tompkins, Helly Nahmad London and The Reuben Foundation.


Throughout the Words In The Square celebration, ticketed tours of the Library will give visitors an additional opportunity to find out about the Library’s fascinating history and the unique resources that can be found on its 17 miles of shelves.

Tom Stoppard, President of The London Library concluded, “Words In The Square is a very special celebration of people and ideas to which everyone is welcome. As someone who loves The London Library and everything it does to support literature and creativity, I am thrilled that we will be able to mark our 175th anniversary in such good company”. 


John McNally


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