London Library
The London Library is the world's largest independent lending library
Subscription library
A subscription library is a library that is financed by private funds either from membership fees or endowments...

, and the UK's leading literary institution. It is located in the City of Westminster
City of Westminster
The City of Westminster is a London borough occupying much of the central area of London, England, including most of the West End. It is located to the west of and adjoining the ancient City of London, directly to the east of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and its southern boundary...

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...


It was founded in 1841 by a group of men who included Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

, who was dissatisfied with some of the policies at the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

. The library has been based at 14 St. James's Square
St. James's Square
St. James's Square is the only square in the exclusive St James's district of the City of Westminster. It has predominantly Georgian and neo-Georgian architecture and a private garden in the centre...

 since 1845, having originally occupied the first floor of the Travellers Club
Travellers Club
The Travellers Club is a gentlemen's club standing at 106 Pall Mall, London. It is the oldest of the surviving Pall Mall clubs, having been established in 1819, and was recently described by the Los Angeles Times as "the quintessential English gentleman's club." Visits are possible by invitation...

 at 49 Pall Mall
Pall Mall, London
Pall Mall is a street in the City of Westminster, London, and parallel to The Mall, from St. James's Street across Waterloo Place to the Haymarket; while Pall Mall East continues into Trafalgar Square. The street is a major thoroughfare in the St James's area of London, and a section of the...


Membership is open to all, on payment of an annual subscription. The library now has some 7,000 members, mostly private individuals..

Trustees and governance

The London Library is a self-supporting, independent institution. It is a registered charity
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

 whose sole aim is the advancement of education, learning, and knowledge. Incorporated by Royal Charter, it has its own bylaws and the power to make or amend its rules. It has a royal patron, an elected president and vice presidents, and is administered by an elected board of a maximum of 15 trustees, including the Chairman and the Hon. Treasurer.
The Earl of Clarendon
Thomas Villiers, 2nd Earl of Clarendon
Thomas Villiers, 2nd Earl of Clarendon , known as Lord Hyde from 1776 to 1786, was a British peer and Tory Member of Parliament....

 was the library's first president, Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray was an English novelist of the 19th century. He was famous for his satirical works, particularly Vanity Fair, a panoramic portrait of English society.-Biography:...

 was its first auditor and Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone FRS FSS was a British Liberal statesman. In a career lasting over sixty years, he served as Prime Minister four separate times , more than any other person. Gladstone was also Britain's oldest Prime Minister, 84 years old when he resigned for the last time...

 and Sir Edward Bunbury were on the first committee. The Belgian freedom fighter and former Louvain librarian Sylvain van de Weyer
Sylvain Van de Weyer
Jean-Sylvain Van de Weyer was a Belgian politician, and then the Belgian Minister at the Court of St. James's, effectively the ambassador to the United Kingdom....

 was a vice-president from 1848-1874. (Van de Weyer's father-in-law Joshua Bates
Joshua Bates (financier)
Joshua Bates was an international financier who divided his life between the United States and the United Kingdom.Bates was born in Commercial St., Weymouth, Massachusetts. Early in his career he worked for William Gray, owner of Gray's Wharf in Charlestown. A merchant and a banker, in 1828 Bates...

 was a founder of the Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library is a municipal public library system in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was the first publicly supported municipal library in the United States, the first large library open to the public in the United States, and the first public library to allow people to...

 in 1852.)

A vigorous and long-serving presence in later Victorian times was Richard Monckton-Milnes
Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton
Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton FRS was an English poet, patron of literature and politician.-Background and education:...

, later Lord Houghton, a friend of Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

. Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

 was among the founder members. In more recent times, Lord Clark
Kenneth Clark
Kenneth McKenzie Clark, Baron Clark, OM, CH, KCB, FBA was a British author, museum director, broadcaster, and one of the best-known art historians of his generation...

 and T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 have been among the library's presidents, and Sir Harold Nicolson
Harold Nicolson
Sir Harold George Nicolson KCVO CMG was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician. He was the husband of writer Vita Sackville-West, their unusual relationship being described in their son's book, Portrait of a Marriage.-Early life:Nicolson was born in Tehran, Persia, the younger son of...

, Sir Rupert Hart-Davis
Rupert Hart-Davis
Sir Rupert Charles Hart-Davis was an English publisher, editor and man of letters. He founded the publishing company Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd...

 and the Hon Michael Astor
Michael Langhorne Astor
The Hon. Michael Langhorne Astor was a British Conservative Party politician and fourth child of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor and Nancy Witcher Langhorne, both Members of Parliament....

 have been Chairmen.

In 1956 the Library suddenly received a demand from the Westminster City Council
Westminster City Council
Westminster City Council is the local authority for the City of Westminster in Greater London, England. It is a London borough council and is entitled to be known as a city council, which is a rare distinction in the United Kingdom. The city is divided into 20 wards, each electing three councillors...

 for rates (despite being registered as a tax-free charity), and the Inland Revenue
Inland Revenue
The Inland Revenue was, until April 2005, a department of the British Government responsible for the collection of direct taxation, including income tax, national insurance contributions, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, corporation tax, petroleum revenue tax and stamp duty...

 was also involved. Most publishers then donated free copies of their books to the library. The final appeal was turned down by the Court of Appeal in 1959, and a letter in The Times of 5 November from the President and Chairman (T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 and Rupert Hart-Davis
Rupert Hart-Davis
Sir Rupert Charles Hart-Davis was an English publisher, editor and man of letters. He founded the publishing company Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd...

) appealed for funds. An auction of manuscripts from many authors on 22 June 1960 raised £17,000 and £25,000 respectively; enough to clear debts and legal expenses of £20,000. At the sale T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

 items from his brother fetched £3,800, Eliot’s The Waste Land
The Waste Land
The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

fetched £2,800, and Lytton Strachey
Lytton Strachey
Giles Lytton Strachey was a British writer and critic. He is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit...

’s Queen Victoria £1,800, though 170 inscribed books and pamphlets from John Masefield
John Masefield
John Edward Masefield, OM, was an English poet and writer, and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930 until his death in 1967...

 fetched only £200, which Hart-Davis thought "shamefully low". The Queen and Queen Mother both gave some rare and valuable old books.

In 1981 the patron was HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Lord Annan was president. The vice-presidents have included Lord Lyttelton
George Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton
George William Lyttelton, 4th Baron Lyttelton , was a British aristocrat and Conservative politician.-Early life:...

, Sir Isaiah Berlin
Isaiah Berlin
Sir Isaiah Berlin OM, FBA was a British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas of Russian-Jewish origin, regarded as one of the leading thinkers of the twentieth century and a dominant liberal scholar of his generation...

, Sir Rupert Hart-Davis
Rupert Hart-Davis
Sir Rupert Charles Hart-Davis was an English publisher, editor and man of letters. He founded the publishing company Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd...

, Lord Kenyon
Baron Kenyon
Lord Kenyon, Baron of Gredington, in the County of Flint, is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1788 for the lawyer and judge Sir Lloyd Kenyon, 1st Baronet. He served as Master of the Rolls and as Lord Chief Justice of England. Kenyon had already been created a Baronet, of...

, Lord Rayne, Hon. Sir Steven Runciman
Steven Runciman
The Hon. Sir James Cochran Stevenson Runciman CH — known as Steven Runciman — was a British historian known for his work on the Middle Ages...

, Dame Veronica Wedgwood
Veronica Wedgwood
Dame Veronica Wedgwood OM DBE was an English historian who generally published under the name C. V. Wedgwood...

, and Dame Rebecca West
Rebecca West
Cicely Isabel Fairfield , known by her pen name Rebecca West, or Dame Rebecca West, DBE was an English author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer. A prolific, protean author who wrote in many genres, West was committed to feminist and liberal principles and was one of the foremost public...

. The chairman was Philip Ziegler
Philip Ziegler
-Background:Born in Ringwood, Ziegler was educated at St Cyprian's School, Eastbourne, and went with the school when it merged with Summer Fields School, Oxford. He was afterwards at Eton College and New College, Oxford...

, and the committee included: Correlli Barnett
Correlli Barnett
Correlli Douglas Barnett CBE FRSL is an English military historian, who has also written works of economic history, particularly on the United Kingdom's post-war "industrial decline".-Personal life:...

, Bamber Gascoigne
Bamber Gascoigne
Bamber Gascoigne, FRSL is a British television presenter and author, most known for being the original quizmaster on University Challenge.-Biography:...

, Lewis Golden, John Gross
John Gross
John Gross FRSL was an eminent English author, anthologist, literary and theatrical critic. The Spectator magazine called Gross “the best-read man in Britain”, as did The Guardian...

, Duff Hart-Davis
Duff Hart-Davis
Peter Duff Hart-Davis , generally known as Duff Hart-Davis, is a British biographer, naturalist and journalist, who writes for The Independent newspaper. He is married to Phyllida Barstow and has one son and one daughter, the journalist Alice Hart-Davis...

, Sir Charles Johnson
Charles Hepburn Johnston
Sir Charles Hepburn-Johnston GCMG, KStJ was a senior British diplomat.-Biography:He was born in London, the son of Ernest Johnston and Emma Hepburn, on 11 March 1912. He was educated at Winchester College, and Balliol College, Oxford, joining the Diplomatic Service in 1936...

, Sir Oliver Millar
Oliver Millar
Sir Oliver Nicholas Millar, GCVO, FSA, FBA, was a British art historian. He was an expert on 17th century British painting, and a leading authority on Anthony van Dyck in particular. He served in the Royal Household for 41 years from 1947, becoming Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures in 1972. He...

, Anthony Quinton
Anthony Quinton, Baron Quinton
Anthony Meredith Quinton, Baron Quinton was a British political and moral philosopher, metaphysician, and materialist philosopher of mind.-Life:...

, Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson, and Claire Tomalin
Claire Tomalin
Claire Tomalin is an English biographer and journalist. She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge.She was literary editor of the New Statesman and of the Sunday Times, and has written several noted biographies...


The current president of the Library is Sir Tom Stopppard
Tom Stoppard
Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL is a British playwright, knighted in 1997. He has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, finding prominence with plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, and Rosencrantz and...

. The Chairman of the Trustees is Bill Emmott
Bill Emmott
Bill Emmott is an English journalist.Emmott was educated at Latymer Upper School in London and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he attained a First Class Degree in PPE . After graduation, he worked for The Economist newspaper in Brussels, Tokyo and London, becoming editor in March 1993. He...



The library's collections, which range from the 16th century to the present day, are strong within the fields of literature, fiction, history, fine and applied art, architecture, history, biography, philosophy, religion, topography, and travel. The social sciences are more lightly covered. Pure and natural sciences, technology, medicine and law are not within the library's purview, although it has some books in all of those fields; books on their histories are normally acquired. Periodicals
Periodical publication
Periodical literature is a published work that appears in a new edition on a regular schedule. The most familiar examples are the newspaper, often published daily, or weekly; or the magazine, typically published weekly, monthly or as a quarterly...

 and annuals on a wide range of subjects are also held in the collections.

In 1944, some stock was lost to bomb damage and in 1970 its few incunabula were sold. This apart, the library has (except for some duplicates) retained all items acquired since its foundation. The library now holds more than one million items, and each year acquires some 8,000 new titles and 800 periodicals. 95 per cent of the collection is housed on open shelves and 97 per cent is available for loan, either on-site or through the post. The Library claims to be the largest lending library in Europe.

It is a central tenet of the Library that, as books are never entirely superseded, and therefore never redundant, the collections should not be weeded of material merely because it is old, idiosyncratic or unfashionable: except in the case of occasional duplicate volumes, almost nothing has ever been discarded from the Library shelves.

The library also subscribes to many ejournals
Electronic journal
Electronic journals, also known as ejournals, e-journals, and electronic serials, are scholarly journals or intellectual magazines that can be accessed via electronic transmission. In practice, this means that they are usually published on the Web...

 and other online databases
Bibliographic database
A bibliographic database is a database of bibliographic records, an organized digital collection of references to published literature, including journal and newspaper articles, conference proceedings, reports, government and legal publications, patents, books, etc...

. All post-1950 acquisitions are searchable on the online catalogue, and pre-1950 volumes continue to be added daily as part of the Retrospective Cataloguing Project.


In 1903 the annual membership fee was £3. Around the time of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 it was £3 3s, with an entrance fee of £1 1s. During the 1930s it was £4 4s with an entrance fee of £3 3s. By 1946 the annual rate was still £4 4s, but the joining fee had fallen to £2 2s. In November 1981 it was £60 per annum. From January 2008 it was increased from £210 to £375 per annum, with the same concessionary rates, and no initial fee.

As of January 2011 the annual fee for Individual membership is £435. Concessionary rates are available, including Young Person's membership (£220), Spouse/Partner membership and Carlyle membership. Members are able to use the library Monday - Saturday, with late openings until 9pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. Four attractive reading rooms or a choice of individual study spaces, free Wi-Fi, access to electronic publications and internet, reference enquiries and research assistance and a quarterly members' magazine are just some of the other benefits available to members.


The London Library has a Corporate Patron scheme offering many benefits including exclusive hire of the Library for private events. The Founders' Circle is a group dedicated to supporting the running of the Library year by year, ensuring that it has the means to continue at the service of all who have need of its intellectual capital. Named in honour of the first 500 members who set the Library on its feet in 1841, the Founders' Circle come together at a variety of interesting and exclusive events throughout the year.

Individuals can also support the Library by donating to The Book Fund or taking part in Adopt a Book schemes, whereby members can adopt new, favourite or rare books in the Library.

Awards and Competitions

The London Library launched a Student Prize in October 2011. The London Library Student Prize in partnership with The Times and FreshMinds is a writing competition open to all final year undergraduates studying at higher education institutions across the UK. Entrants must write an 800 word piece on the theme 'The future of Britain lies with the right hand side of the brain'. The winning piece will be published in the comment pages of The Times and in The London Library Magazine and the winner will received £5000.

Website and Social Media

The London Library has a Facebook page and Twitter account, with over 2000 users on both Facebook and Twitter.
The London Library launched a new website in September 2011, designed and developed by GR/DD.


The London Library offers free tours every Monday evening at 7pm.

Further reading

  • Grindea, Miron (ed.) (1978). The London Library. Ipswich: Boydell Press/Adam Books.(ISBN 0 85115 098 5).
This book has contributions from:
Edmund Gosse
Edmund Gosse
Sir Edmund William Gosse CB was an English poet, author and critic; the son of Philip Henry Gosse and Emily Bowes.-Early life:...

; J. M. Barrie
J. M. Barrie
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright...

; Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

; George Moore; T.E. Lawrence; Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...

 (all letters);
and essays by: Raymond Mortimer
Raymond Mortimer
Charles Raymond Mortimer Bell , who wrote under the name Raymond Mortimer, was a British writer, known mostly as a critic and literary editor....

; David Cecil
Lord David Cecil
Edward Christian David Gascoyne-Cecil, CH , was a British biographer, historian and academic. He held the style of 'Lord' by courtesy, as a younger son of a marquess.-Early life and studies:...

; Anthony Powell
Anthony Powell
Anthony Dymoke Powell CH, CBE was an English novelist best known for his twelve-volume work A Dance to the Music of Time, published between 1951 and 1975....

; Edna O'Brien
Edna O'Brien
Edna O'Brien is an Irish novelist and short story writer whose works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men and to society as a whole.-Life and career:...

; Angus Wilson
Angus Wilson
Sir Angus Frank Johnstone Wilson, CBE was an English novelist and short story writer. He was awarded the 1958 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot and later received a knighthood for his services to literature.-Biography:Wilson was born in Bexhill, Sussex, England, to...

; Roy Fuller
Roy Fuller
Roy Broadbent Fuller was an English writer, known mostly as a poet. He was born in Failsworth, Lancashire, and brought up in Blackpool. He worked as a lawyer for a building society, serving in the Royal Navy 1941-1946.Poems was his first book of poetry. He began to write fiction also in the 1950s...

; David Wright; Sean O'Faolain; Michael Burn; Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell
John Enoch Powell, MBE was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party MP and Minister of Health . He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to mass immigration from...

; Noel Annan; George Mikes
George Mikes
George Mikes was a Hungarian-born British author best known for his humorous commentaries on various countries.- Life :...

; George D. Painter; D. J. Enright
D. J. Enright
Dennis Joseph Enright was a British academic, poet, novelist and critic, and general man of letters.-Life:He was born in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and educated at Leamington College and Downing College, Cambridge...

; John Julius Norwich
John Julius Norwich
John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich CVO — known as John Julius Norwich — is an English historian, travel writer and television personality.-Early life:...

; Miles Kington
Miles Kington
Miles Beresford Kington was a British journalist, musician and broadcaster.-Early life :...

; J. W. Lambert; John Weightman; A. E. Ellis; Bruce Berlind; Dorothy M. Partington; Stanley Gillam; Douglas Matthews; Michael Higgins; Oliver Stallybrass; Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright
Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright
Sir Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright, LL.D. was the Secretary and Librarian of the London Library from 1893 until his death. He managed expansion of the library and compiled a comprehensive catalogue of its collection...

; Antony Farrell; Marcel Troulay; Colin Wilson
Colin Wilson
Colin Henry Wilson is a prolific English writer who first came to prominence as a philosopher and novelist. Wilson has since written widely on true crime, mysticism and other topics. He prefers calling his philosophy new existentialism or phenomenological existentialism.- Early biography:Born and...

. The cover was by Nicolas Bentley
Nicolas Bentley
Nicolas Clerihew Bentley was a British author and illustrator famous for his humorous cartoon drawings in books and magazines in the 1930s and 1940s...

 and drawings by Edward Ardizzone
Edward Ardizzone
Edward Jeffrey Irving Ardizzone, CBE, RA was an English artist, writer and illustrator, chiefly of children's books.-Early life:...

and Michael Lasserson.
  • McIntyre, Anthony (2006). Library book : an architectural journey through the London Library, 1841-2006. London: London Library.
  • Wells, John (1991). Rude Words: a discursive history of the London Library. London: Macmillan

External links

The London Library Official website] - Further information on the library, including its online catalogue.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.