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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.


SchamaWe're delighted that historian and broadcaster Simon Schama and novelist Kazuo Ishiguro have been honoured with knighthoods in the June Birthday Honours list. Both are longstanding members and supporters of The London Library - Simon Schama joined as a life member in 2004 and Kazuo Ishiguro has been a member since 1985.

ishiguroKazuo Ishiguro's knighthood follows the award made to him last year of the Nobel Prize in Literature - making him the tenth London Library member to win the nobel Prize since it was founded in 1901.

Wonderful news that these great friends of the Library have been honoured in this way!

John Julian NorwichThe London Library was very saddened to learn of the death on Friday 1st June of the much-loved writer and broadcaster, John Julius Norwich

He was a prolific historian, with a writing career spanning over half a century, and his many books included major works on Venice, Byzantium and the history of Papacy. He remained active to the very end of his life, maintaining a busy schedule of lectures and public talks and producing three books in the last three years alone (Sicily: An Island at the Crossroads of History, Random House, 2015; Four Princes: John Murray, 2016, and France: A History: from Gaul to de Gaulle, John Murray, 2018).

As well as being a major public figure and writer, he was also a great friend and supporter of The London Library. He joined in 1960 and remained a member for the rest of his life, maintaining that "every sentence of every book I have ever written has been written in The London Library". He met his second wife, Mollie Philipps, in the Library and served for many years as a Library Vice-President, a position he held right up to his death. 

He will be sorely missed.



BA Pic downsized

Thursday 7 June 2018
18:30 - 20:30
Reading Room
The London Library 

With his usual enthusiasm and humour, Benedict shares the true story of his recent expedition to the remotest forests of Papua New Guinea, a daring journey to locate people who befriended him 35 years ago, and which created headlines around the world when it was thought he was lost, “kidnapped by head-hunters,” or had simply gone mad.   

Benedict Allen is one of the world’s leading explorers, famous for his technique of not taking a GPS, phone or normal “backup” but instead relying on skills he has learnt from indigenous people. He has published ten books – two of them best sellers – and made seven TV series for the BBC.

18:30 - Doors open
19:00 to 20:00 - Talk
20:30 - Event ends
This event is open to both members and non-members of The London Library.

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Alan BellALAN SCOTT BELL (1942-2018)

It is with great sadness that the Library learned of the death on Tuesday 24th April of Alan Bell who was the Librarian here from 1993-2002.

Alan became Librarian following a distinguished career in collection development that began on graduation from Selwyn College, Cambridge with his appointment as Assistant Registrar to the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, and included fifteen years as Assistant Keeper at the National Library of Scotland (1966–81) and twelve years as Librarian at the University of Oxford Rhodes House Library (1981–93).

Alan had joined The London Library as a member in 1983 and was appointed Librarian in 1993 on the retirement of Douglas Matthews. He played a key role in the continued development and expansion of the Library’s collections and his tenure coincided with a period of considerable change as the Library tackled a series of significant building projects and embraced computerised cataloguing and Internet use. The Anstruther Wing (enabled by a major donation from Ian Anstruther) had recently been opened and the Drue Heinz Literary Fund had been established (the gift of a major endowment from Vice-President Drue Heinz, who died earlier this month). Alan helped ensure that both these generous gifts were able to fulfil their potential. Over 40,000 rare and vulnerable volumes were transferred into the safe storage of the Anstruther Wing, while the Drue Heinz Literary Fund has already enabled the Library to acquire thousands of books.

Alongside his highly successful library career, Alan actively pursued wider literary and antiquarian interests. He was a regular reviewer in the TLS and other London journals and his work for publication included a biography of Sydney Smith (1980), editing The Letters of Henry Cockburn and contributing to Histories of Oxford University and the Oxford University Press. He was appointed a Visiting Fellow at All Soul’s College, Oxford in 1980 and from 1993 worked as an advisory editor on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Following his retirement he continued his literary projects including providing editorial assistance with the Oxford edition of The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh.

For much of his time at The London Library, Alan was assisted in his work by the then Deputy Librarian, Inez Lynn, who succeeded him on his retirement in January 2002. Inez commented: “Alan brought a deep knowledge of books, writers and scholarship to the role of Librarian and embraced new technology with enthusiasm. Always generous with his assistance to writers and scholars, he was also exceptionally generous in allowing his senior staff to develop their own ideas for the Library and to bring them to fruition, taking real pleasure in their professional development.”


Lynne Truss


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