Around 97% of the Library's collections can be freely browsed on the open shelves. Only a small number of books are stored in the Library's safes because of their age, rarity and/or provenance.
The Special Collections can all be consulted upon request and some can be borrowed by Library members upon completion of a guarantee form.
The London Library has played a central part in my studies. It has been invaluable.
While the books on the Library's open shelves date from 1700 onwards, the whole collection actually dates back as far as 1500. Ca. 12,000 antiquarian books are housed in safe storage because of their age and rarity. This collection of books printed between 1500 and 1800 covers as broad a range as our open-access holdings – from politics, history and philosophy, to linguistics, travel and exploration, poetry, botany, occultism, astronomy and psychology. The collection includes many beautiful volumes produced by famous European printers.
A collection of nearly 200 atlases dating from the 16th century to the present day offering a unique perspective on the changing ways we have mapped our world. The collection is particularly strong in 19th-century maps of the British railways but also includes many foreign maps and examples of atlases in various formats and sizes printed for a variety of purposes: from navigational aids to statistical analysis and documentary evidence for use in legal disputes.
The largest extant collection of Readiana, it is made up of 80 notebooks belonging to the Victorian novelist and playwright Charles Reade (1848-1884). One of the most popular, successful and controversial writers of his time, Reade strove in his work to expose social ills in a way that has led to comparisons with Dickens. These scrapbooks, annotated by Reade himself, have come to be recognized as fundamental to an understanding of Reade and his art.