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British Library

The largest library in the world

What makes it world class?

Global reputation | Scale and importance of its collection 

It’s the largest library in the world by number of items catalogued (over 170 million, with a similar number of visitors per year).

The library has been at the forefront of digitising historic material and it makes a huge amount available online, including medieval manuscripts and historic sound recordings. The British Library has been a legal deposit library since the middle ages, so it receives every title published in the UK and Ireland and most foreign titles distributed in Britain.

Once a part of the British Museum and housed in cramp conditions in Bloomsbury, since 1997 it has been in its purpose-built Grade 1 listed building near St Pancras train station.

It is a public body and a major research library with items in many languages and from many cultures, in many media formats. It holds many critically acclaimed and free exhibitions of its collections throughout the year.

What they say

For research, inspiration and enjoyment 

What we say

Knowledge is power

What you say

Tell us about your experience of the British Library on Twitter


Others on the World Class Britain list include

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The prince of the plant world: nothing compares to Kew


Global 'star' university, strong in medical research



One of the world's leading broadcasters


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