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.


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.


Our recent news item highlighted the interview given by Helen O'Neill - our Archive, Heritage & Development Librarian - with BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House, in which Helen talked about our collection of small and miniature books. The full interview can be heard here.

Following the broadcast, Mr Peter Quinn of York has very kindly gifted a little book to the Library that had belonged to his father Frank, who was born in Manchester in 1898 just two years before Queen Victoria died. 

Queen Victoria Miniature bookDonated to us in his father's memory, "Queen Victoria The Good Queen and Empress" by Eleanor Bulley measures just 2x2.5 inches and is beautifully presented with fancy boards, gilt edges and bound in fine leather binding. 

It was published as part of "The Midget Series" by Wells Gardener, Darton & Co in 1901, as a keepsake after Victoria's death. The London Library's first patron was Prince Albert so this little book is a fitting and fine addition to the small and miniature books collection at the Library. It will join over 300 other small and miniature books which span the 16th to the 20th centuries.

Victoria book 3We're extremely grateful to Peter Quinn for this touching act of generosity and we're delighted to have this beautiful book joining our small and miniature book collection.




Artemis Cooper


Keep up-to-date with
the latest library news
and events with our
free e-newsletter



A range of memberships is available. Membership is open to everyone.

Find out more

Take a look inside The London Library

Beyond our front entrance
is a vast labyrinth
of books
See what's inside with our virtual tour

Find out more