The London Library was an interesting place to visit. I can honestly say that I have never been to a library like the London Library. The London Library is strictly a subscription library. It is extremely private library institution but membership is open to everyone. A factor that makes it unique is the construction of the building. The original library was housed in a London townhouse. As the library has grown overtime expansion has been needed. Expansion has occurred several times since it was founded. About eighteen months ago expansion and construction was completed and which allows for 25 more years of growth and a new conservation studio.
The library houses over a million books. These books range from 16th century to present day. One of the stands out pieces from their 16th century special collection was Assertio Septem Sacramentorum written by Henry VIII and published in 1521. The title roughly translates into “Defense of the Seven Sacraments”. The purpose of the book was to defend the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith against Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. In recognition of his efforts the Pope declared Henry VIII the Defender of the Faith. Soon after Henry VIII was looking for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon his first wife. When he was not getting the results he wanted he broke from the Pope and become head of the English Church; also marrying Anne Boleyn.
· The London Library was founded in 1841 and is now the largest private lending library in the world.
· They are an independent library and entirely self-supported
· There are about 7,000 registered members
· The collection ranges from the 16th century to present day
· There are about one million books in the collection and 15 miles of shelves
· 97% of the collection is available for loan
· There are about thirty thousand rare books within the collection
· 2,500 periodical titles
· There are roughly 8,000 new books a year added to the collection
· Having a policy of ‘books do not become redundant just because they are old’ means that no books are ever weeded from the collection
· They have created their own cataloging and shelving procedures
Previous London Library members include
§ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
§ Bram Stoker
§ T.S Elliot (also president of the library from 1952-1964)
§ Virginia Woolf (listed her occupation on her application as ‘spinster’
§ Agatha Christie
§ Winston Churchill
§ Henry James
§ Charles Darwin
§ Charles Dickens