About Us

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.

 

Carlyles House smallThomas Carlyle - writer of works such as The French Revolution: A History - was  also the founder of The London Library and this month, the Library’s Collection Care team have started an exciting conservation project to help restore and protect some of the books from his collection.

The books are owned by The London Library and have been on loan to the National Trust so they can be displayed - along with many other of Jane and Thomas Carlyle's possessions - in the drawing room of the Carlyle House at Cheyne Row in Chelsea. 

With the house closed for annual winter maintenance and conservation, we're carrying out much needed repairs and conservation to 28 books Conservationoriginally owned by the Carlyles - many of them by classical authors, but some written by Thomas and Jane Carlyle themselves. Our Collection Care team are ready with special Japanese paper and wheat starch paste to give the books a new lease of life so they can safely go back on display at Carlyle's House in Cheyne Row next Spring. 

Find out more from our latest blog.

Little Red Books have been in the news recently with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell raising eyebrows in the House of Commons by reading passages from Chairman Mao during the Autumn Statement.

Radio 4's Broadcasting House decided to do a follow up and came into The London Library to interview our Archive Librarian Helen O'Neill to find out more about the history and magnificence of small and miniature books.

In a fascinating five minute interview Helen takes us through some of The London Library's collection.

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Featured books include 16th century Latin and Spanish Bibles; the UK's smallest authorised Bible, dating from 1896 and coming with its own magnifying glass; and one of our earliest small books printed in 1515 by Aldus Manutius, the originator of the printed pocket book and the inventor of the space saving italic typeface. Helen also discusses the beautifully illustrated A Simple Story by actress and novelist Elizabeth Inchbold.

Describing the collection as "a feast for the eyes" Presenter Paddy O'Connell marvels at some of the craftsmanship on display.Touring the Library, he records the silence in the Reading Room (a creaky floorboard is a good sign of our 175 year heritage!) and delights at the smell of books in the central bookstacks - "the smell here is gorgeous; breathe in this smell and you feel a lot more well-read than when you came in!"

Find out more about our collection of small and miniature books in our latest blog.

 

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The latest issue of The London Library’s magazine is now available on-line and contains the usual fascinating mix of articles and insights by leading writers and thinkers - all of whom are Library members.

  • Renowned historical biographer Flora Fraser looks at some of the Library’s books and eLibrary resources that have helped shape her latest biography George and Martha Washington: A Revolutionary Marriage.

Writer and Actor Ian Kelly’s play Mr Foote’s Other Leg is currently showing at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He writes about how largely forgotten works in The London Library’s Literature Collection were the crucial chain of events that led him to write the play about the life of Samuel Foote - the most celebrated entertainer in Georgian London.

Philip Hook is a Director and Senior Paintings Specialist at Sothebys and is also a Trustee of The London Library. His article explores some of his favourite journals written by artists over the centuries, including Delacroix, Paul Klee and Andy Warhol.

Peter Stothard is Editor of the TLS, an author, and was Editor of The Times between 1992 and 2002. Here he turns his hands to reviewing the Library’s wonderfully varied Birds section featuring bold and glossy plates by JJ Audobon, Edward Lear and Peter Scott as well as 900 more modest but much loved books on the subject.

In his article Cities Built on Books Canadian writer Alberto Manguel looks at the ways in which books have shaped the identity of the places in which explorers, settlers and migrants have lived. The Spanish conquistadores carried with them the works of their age, shaping their interpretation of the world they were discovering. Mendoza and his men brought with them a small collection of books and a harrowing account of their settlement of Buenos Aires recorded their privations. The 10th century Grand Vizier of Persia would transport his library of 117,000 titles on the back of 400 camels.  In the Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, tents have been set up as makeshift book rooms. As Manguel writes, “Our constant migrations are pinpointed by reading. As exiles, as explorers, as refugees, as settlers we carry books in our chattel. Our ancestors brought with them cattle, tents, grains, weapons, but also their libraries. We travel with our paperbacks or kindles. The custom is very ancient.”

As well as a great read, The London Library Magazine is also a great way to catch up on other news about the Library, including finding out about the schedule of forthcoming Member events and our emerging plans for our 175th anniversary which we will be celebrating next year.

Books in sunlight 200x200Anyone who loves books will love The London Library and gift membership is a perfect way to make a book lover’s Christmas truly special.

The Library has been at the heart of literary life for nearly 175 years and members ranging from George Eliot, Charles Dickens, TS Eliot, EM Forster and Virginia Woolf have all worked, written and created here. The tradition goes on and The Library today is a unique home for anyone who loves the written word.

Membership to this great literary oasis brings access to fantastic on-line resources and a collection of over one million books dating from 1700 to the present day – all of which are available for borrowing. Housed in an elegant and striking building overlooking St James’s Square in London, The London Library is a bibliophile’s paradise boasting a history that can be felt in every inch of its 17 miles of bookshelves.

The range and quality of the collection, the freedom to browse 17 miles of book stacks and the Library’s stylish and evocative ambience make it a truly unique place to read, research and relax. Membership is open to everyone and brings a wealth of benefits:

  • More than one million books to browse, borrow and enjoy at leisure
  • Extensive journal and periodical subscriptions from Modern Language Review to The New Yorker
  • A wealth of online resources from academic journals (including access to JSTOR) to Who's Who online
  • Extremely generous loan periods, advance ordering of books and a postal loans service anywhere within the UK and Europe
  • Late opening until 8pm three evenings a week
  • Four attractive reading rooms or a choice of individual study spaces
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Quarterly members' magazine
  • Member offers & discounts at a range of organisations

Annual membership costs just £41 per month and is the perfect way to wish Merry Christmas a million times over! 

Find out more about how to give gift membership.

"AN INDISPENSABLE PART OF MY PLAYWRITING LIFE"

Sir David Hare

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