For every person who seeks out the perfect sunset over the Pacific or a quiet stay in the wilderness, there is somebody who swoons over a vast trove of books. For those people—the Hermione Grangers, the Rupert Gileses, the Lisa Simpsons—we recommend adding the British Library in London to your bucket list. Why? Though it may not be the most historic or the most beautiful library on the planet, it is the largest, defined by the number of items cataloged.
With over 170 million books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, sound and music recordings, magazines, and drawings, it’s no wonder the library attracts over 1.75 million visitors per year. Luckily, there’s lots of space on offer too—enough room to accommodate more than 1,200 readers and 625 kilometers of shelves.
The library boasts that, if a visitor were to see five items every day, it would take a whopping 80,000 years to see the entire collection. But before your lifetime is up, you’ll surely want to check out the Diamond Sutra, otherwise known as the world’s earliest dated printed book, which is often on display in the exhibition galleries of the library. See also treasures like teh Magna Cart and handwritten Beatles lyrics.
It may come as a surprise, but as far as libraries go, the British Library isn’t actually that old—it was established in 1973 as a result of the British Library Act, which was enacted the year before. It’s the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century, and its modernist style is still controversial.
The British Library is open to all. Next time you’re in London, head here to see old manuscripts on display to the general public, including Beowulf,Canterbury Tales, Jane Eyre, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, and Just So Stories—to name a few.