The London Library

Contact details

Website: Email: Telephone: +44 (0)20 77664745/4747

The London Library. Image copyright: Paul Raftery.

About the library

The London Library was founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle. His founding vision was for an institution which would allow subscribers to enjoy the riches of a national library in their own homes. Over the past 175 years, The London Library's collection has grown to more than one million volumes, stored on 17 miles of open access shelves which may be freely browsed. 97% of the collections are available for loan.

With books dating from the 16th to the 21st century, including the very latest print and digital resources, the Library has always sought to acquire all of the standard and authoritative works of each generation. Approximately 8,000 new titles are added to the collections every year, requiring the Library to find a further half-a-mile of shelving every three years. Highlights of the Collection:

  • Remarkably extensive collections in History and Biography, and a fascinating range of works on Topography, travel and exploration.
  • The Literature and Fiction sections include a huge range of novels, poetry, plays, essays, literary criticism and causeries.
  • The Art Room houses a substantial collection on the visual arts and architecture - a collection which is growing at a rate of 68 feet of extra book-shelf a year.
  • A wealth of scientific material for the specialist and the general reader, as well as fine coverage of the history of science, the social sciences and philosophy.
  • The Religion collection houses an exceptional range of theological texts and studies in comparative religion.
  • Books in over 50 languages, with particular riches in the French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian collections.

With over 6500 current members, the Library has enjoyed the patronage of many eminent writers, academics, politicians and readers throughout its history and has long played a central role in the intellectual life of the nation. Past and present members include Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, Bruce Chatwin, Sebastian Faulks, Jeremy Paxman, Antonia Fraser and current president Sir Tim Rice. Membership of The London Library is open to all.

The Library is a registered charity and receives no government or statutory funding and is funded entirely by members' subscriptions, donations and bequests.

Photograph of The London Library, image copyright: Paul Raftery.

The local library catalogue is available online.

British Library inter-library loan codes

Library code


Policy code


For an explanation of these codes, and for more information on arranging inter-library loans, see the inter-library loans page on the British Library website.

Accessing materials

Can I see live document availability on Library Hub Discover? No.

Can I obtain items via inter-library loan?

Can I visit the library to view materials? Yes - Membership is open to all and limited numbers of Temporary Reference Tickets are available to non-members needing short-term access to Library materials not readily accessible elsewhere. If you wish to visit it is advisable to contact the library in advance, to ensure that they can accommodate you and that the material you need will be available.



Browse all of The London Library records in Library Hub Discover here.