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The London Library - one of the world’s great literary institutions – is officially 175 years old today!

Founded by Thomas Carlyle – with support from Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, John Stuart Mill and William Gladstone – the Library first opened its doors in 1841. It has been at the heart of UK literary life ever since and hundreds of famous writers have worked here and roamed its famous bookstacks.

Tom Stoppard, the Library’s President since 2002, commented: “For 175 years The London Library has held a special place in the affections of those who love books and the written word. It has stayed true to its purpose and become more than a great library – this is one of the places where literature keeps its soul”.

History pic

On 23rd February 1944 The London Library came within a few feet of being totally destroyed.

The Library had had several near misses during air raids earlier in the war, but that February night its luck ran out. High explosive 500lb bombs dropped from a German plane recorded a line of destruction across St James’s – the first hit the Library, the last exploded in the road outside St. James’s Palace, blowing out ancient glass and destroying the windows of the Chapel Royal.

The Library’s Central stacks took a direct hit, severely damaging five floors of the recently built 1930s stacks plus parts of the Art Room, Prevost Room (now the Sackler Study), Issue Hall and the north bay of the main Reading Room (now the Writers’ Room). Photos of shattered windows and twisted girders provide stark evidence of the bomb’s impact.

02370238 The Sackler Study 1944

  • 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.

Leica View from St Jamess Square Garden 2The London Library at 175

May 2016 promises to be a special time to celebrate the world of words, ideas and literary invention as The London Library – one of the world’s great literary institutions - gears up for its 175th anniversary.

On Tuesday 3rd May 2016, the Library will be marking 175 years since its foundation in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle and by founder members including Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, William Gladstone and John Stuart Mill.

The Library has been at the heart of literary life ever since and its miles of atmospheric bookshelves have provided a unique resource for thousands of members - including an extraordinary roll-call of the world’s leading writers and thinkers.



Simon Callow


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