Arts & Culture: Five amazing things about The British Library

4:00 PM

Jane Austen brought me to the British Library.
While #lookingforjaneausten, I read somewhere that the British Library is in possession of a handwritten letter by Jane to her beloved sister Cassandra. It was a reply to the one sent earlier by the older Austen and talks about the birth of a new nephew – Henry Edgar Austen, news about their brother Charles who was serving in the Royal Navy, and such things that occupy an Austen character – weather, health, clothes, and social engagements.

Jane Austen’s letter is part of the Sir John Ritblat Gallery a.k.a the Treasures of the British Library and could be found on the first floor, on the left when coming from the main entrance.  
I entered the room after a group of kids on a school trip. As we passed by ancient religious texts as well as some of the most significant literature in the English-speaking world – perhaps you’ve heard of Geoffrey Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales – the hair on the back of my neck started to stand up. But it was when I have finally inched my way to Jane Austen’s writing desk and her handwritten letter that heart burst. Perhaps it was best that I was trailing behind the school kids or they would’ve started wondering why this shorty had tears in her eyes.

I came for Jane Austen but I was treated to so much more. I got a good look at scribbles of Leonardo da Vinci on his notebook, handwritten lyrics by the beatles, and even an old depiction of the port city of Amsterdam. Another fascinating piece was a letter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Wolsey, asking about the developments regarding Henry’s annulment.

Needless to say, The Treasures of the British Library as well as the King’s Library – the Library of King George III – are the British Library’s gems. But there are more interesting things about it and here are five of them. 

1. The British Library is the largest library in terms of catalogued items.
It boasts of over 150 Million items and to this day, continues to receive a copy of every publication in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Its collection grows at the rate of 3 million items every year.  And part of that massive collection is the world’s oldest dated printed book, the Diamond Sutra. 

2. It is the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th Century with a supposed budget of £142M.
Originally designed by Sir Colin St. John Wilson and his partner MJ Long, the British Library has a total floor area of 112,000 square meters. It has fourteen floors with nine overground and five underground.

3. It is a brutalist building and a Grade 1 listed building at that!
Quite a departure from the usual gray concrete brutalist buildings we see here in Manila, the British Library is classified under “Brick Brutalist.” Done in brick and concrete, it still is a massive, monolithic building that is all about function and circulation and gives no F*&K about romanticism and mystery. In fact, 10 million bricks and 180,000 tons of concrete were used to erect the building.

In the UK, they have the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architecture or Historic Interest. This means all buildings on the list cannot be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority. Last year in 2015, The British Library was added to the list. “The British Library is one of England’s finest modern public buildings. Listing it at Grade I acknowledges its outstanding architectural and historic interest. Colin St John Wilson’s stately yet accessible design incorporates fine materials and a generous display of public art. The Library’s dramatic and carefully considered interiors achieve its ultimate goal: of creating a space to inspire thought and learning,” said Roger Bowdler, Director of Listing at Historic England, said in a previous interview.

4. You can eat at the library!
Operated by Peyton and Byrne, the library has a self-service restaurant on the first floor – next to the King’s Library, a café on the ground floor, The Last Word café in the main courtyard, and an espresso bar on Euston Road.

5.  Anyone can enter for free!

The main courtyard of the British Library - a good spot to enjoy a book and a good cup of tea from The Last Word, a Peyton and Byrne café.
Here's the main entrance to the British Library. Apparently, one cannot bring in any luggage that's bigger than a 'carry-on' luggage inside the library.

Along the West Wall from the entrance are the bust of the founders: (left to right) Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Joseph Banks , Thomas Grenville, and Sir Hans Sloane.These busts also lead people to the Treasures of the British Library.
Another gem of the British Library is the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which houses the Lindisfarne Gospels, original beatles lyrics, and the Magna Carta (which was on display in another room when we were there.) 
Seating areas are all around. So just as long as you keep it down, it's a good spot to meet up with friends!

Escalator or stairs to get to the King's Library. 
At the head of the stairs on the first floor is this bust of King George III. It is a gift of Friends of the British Library to commemorate the move of the King's Library to the building.
The centerpiece of the British Library is the King's Library Tower which houses King George III's Library.
The King's Library Tower is a six-storey structure.
Lovely natural light inside the library keep it from being gloomy or oppressive!
People just don't read and study at the library. They socialize, too! A popular spot is the cafe. 

Right next door is St. Pancras Renaissance London

The Architecture of The British Library At St. Pancras

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