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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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The British Library (BL) is the national library of the United Kingdom and the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is one of the world's major research libraries, holding over 150 million items in all known languages and formats: books, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings and much more. The Library's collections include around 14 million books (second only to the American Library of Congress), along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 300 BC.

As a legal deposit library, the BL receives copies of all books produced in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including all foreign books distributed in the UK. It also purchases many items which are only published outside Britain and Ireland. The British Library adds some three million items every year.

The Library is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It is located on the north side of Euston Road in St Pancras, London, between Euston railway station and St Pancras railway station.

Contents

Historical background

The British Library was created on 1 July 1973 by the British Library Act 1972. Prior to this, the national library was part of the British Museum, which provided the bulk of the holdings of the new library, alongside various smaller organisations which were folded in (such as the National Central Library, the National Lending Library for Science and Technology and the British National Bibliography). In 1974 functions previously exercised by the Office for Scientific and Technical Information were taken over; in 1982 the India Office Library and Records and the HMSO Binderies became British Library responsibilities. In 1983, the Library absorbed the National Sound Archive, which holds many sound and video recordings, with over a million discs and thousands of tapes.

The core of the Library's historical collections is based on a series of donations and acquisitions from the eighteenth century, known as the 'foundation collections'. These include the books and manuscripts of Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, Robert Harley and King George III.

For many years its collections were dispersed in various buildings around central London, in places such as Bloomsbury (within the British Museum), Chancery Lane, and Holborn, with an interlibrary lending centre at Boston Spa, Wetherby in West Yorkshire (situated on Thorp Arch Trading Estate) and the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London. However, since 1997 the main collection has been housed in a single new building on Euston Road next to St. Pancras railway station, although post-1800 newspapers are still held at Colindale, and the Document Supply Centre is still in Yorkshire. The Library also has a book storage depot in Woolwich, south-east London. The new library was designed specially for the purpose by the architect Colin St. John Wilson. Facing Euston Road is a large piazza that includes pieces of public art, such as large sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi (a bronze statue based on William Blake's study of Isaac Newton) and Antony Gormley. It is the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century.

In the middle of the building is a four-storey glass tower containing the King's Library, with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820. In December 2009 a new storage building at Boston Spa was opened by Rosie Winterton. The new facility which cost £26million will house seven million items, stored in more than 140,000 bar-coded containers, which are retrieved by robots, from the 262 kilometres of temperature and humidity-controlled storage space.

Highlights of the collections

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Collections of manuscripts

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "British Library" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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