One of the most famous and recognisable libraries in the world, the British Library exhibits around 14 million books and manuscripts, some of which are more than 4,000 years old. In terms of the number of items it holds, it could be regarded as the world's largest library, featuring up to 150 million items, and up to 3 million additional items every year.
Despite its extraordinary wealth of books and items, the British Library is very young in comparison to many other world-renowned libraries such as the 17th-century Bodleian Library of Oxford University and the ancient Royal Library of Alexandria in Egypt. The original national library of Britain was formed in the mid-18th century, and was housed in the British Museum until the 1970s. Following the passage of the British Library Act, the British Library was created in 1973 and moved to its current building in St Pancras.
The British Library is the home of the Codex Alexandrinus, a Greek Bible manuscript that dates back to the 5th century and is one of the oldest existing manuscripts of the Bible. The library is also home to the Diamond Sutra, which was written in the 9th century and is, according to British Library experts, the earliest complete and dated printed book still in existence.
In 2015, the British Library united the four surviving original copies of the famous Magna Carta to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the book in 1215. The Magna Carta (The Great Charter) is one of the most important documents in existence because it provided instruction that every individual must confirm with the law – and that even a powerful monarch could not be exempt from this principle.
The library has played an instrumental role in improving public access to historic artefacts via online exhibits. Via the British Library website's online gallery, people can see letters and photographs of the American Civil War, more than 1,200 historic maps of London, and more than 1,500 photographic illustrations of Britain in the Victorian era.
The British Library features the fantastic King's Library restaurant, which serves a wide range of cuisines, from traditional English breakfasts to Asian stir-fries. For some delicious sushi, dine at Mai Sushi and enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine with the finest flavours, or treat yourself to some classic British dishes at the charming Gilbert Scott brasserie and bar.
One of the best value-for-money hotels near British Library is the Premier Inn London Kings Cross Hotel, which provides stylish contemporary accommodation and has a 3-star rating. For a more deluxe venue, consider the sophisticated 19th-century Great Northern Hotel or, if you're looking for an even more luxurious hotel near the British Library, choose the exquisite St Pancras Renaissance London hotel.
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