British Museum and Library

views updated May 23 2018

British Museum and Library. Founded in 1753 to house three historic collections (Cotton, Harley, Sloane) of books, manuscripts, and curiosities acquired by the nation, the museum was funded by public lottery and established in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, ‘for publick use to all Posterity’. Created in the era of the Encyclopédistes, it amassed appropriately, acquiring inter alia the Royal library (1757), the Rosetta Stone, George III's library (1823), and the Elgin marbles, to become a centre for both scholarship and tourism through its extensive coverage of world cultures. The British Library was established by statute (1973) as the national centre for reference, and is a copyright deposit library. The museum has outgrown its original home since opening in 1759, but removal of the library in 1998 to the new, much-criticized building at St Pancras enabled the great court, surrounding the reading room, to be roofed over in a bold and imaginative reconstruction.

A. S. Hargreaves

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British Library

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