It’s widely debated which land the world’s biggest library belongs to, as the number of books in each contender tends to vary. Generally, it’s the UK’s British Library which pips its rival to the post – across the Pond you’ll find America’s Library of the U.S Congress. Combined, the two house a mightily impressive 332 million books (maybe even more than that!)… So, without further ado, let’s learn about both.
The British Library, London
The British Library proudly boasts a collection of almost 170 million books, manuscripts, magazines, music recordings and scores, patents, databases and much, much more. Quite rightly, this library has been awarded the title of ‘The National Library of the United Kingdom’.
This library was originally established by the British Library Act 1972 as an independent entity on July 1st, 1973. You’ll find it standing sturdy between London’s Euston and St. Pancras railway stations, a huge monotholic stone structure filled with thousands of years of history, culture and knowledge
Some of the notable collections of this library include the Diamond Sutra, the earliest printed publication of the world, a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, Codez Arundel, copies of the Gutenberg Bible, and Lewis Carroll’s famous manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. Get ready to explore, as The British Library is extremely lenient in terms of opening its doors to all who wish to explore its enormous treasures.
The Library of the U.S. Congress
Introducing the challenger… The Library of the U.S. Congress! This library is the largest of its kind across the whole of the United States, scooping the title of the second largest library in the world.
The U.S challenger is actually is classed as a federal institution. It’s located in Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. – but that’s not all. It also has a separate campus, the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Virginia; that’s right, this library is so big it’s spread across two states!
So what can you expect to find inside? The library houses research material from all parts of the world, including texts in up to 450 languages. That’s a lot of languages of the world that find their representations in this library.
The library was established in Washington, D.C. way back in 1800, and witnessed several periods of damage and destruction. This included the ravages created by the British in 1814, during the War of 1812 and also a detrimental, raging fire in 1851. After recovering, the library grew and expanded after the American Civil War, and started accumulating literature and important publications from all across the world. Today, though the library is open to the public for touring, only high profile government officials can access its books and materials – it’s certainly not as welcoming as The British Library!
We know we might be biased, but our winner will have to be the British Library – simply because they’re the ones willing to throw open their doors and let us enjoy the books!