The world's largest library has 150 million items in all known languages, from around the world, in many formats, print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, and drawings. The collection of around 14 million books includes: a Leonardo da Vinci notebook; two Gutenberg Bibles; two 1215 copies of Magna Carta; an original manuscript of Beowulf; and the Diamond Sutra, the world's earliest dated printed book, printed in 868.
Open to everyone with "a genuine need to use its collections," the Library allows researchers to apply for a Reader Pass, with proof of signature and permanent address. For the majority of catalogue entries consult "Explore the British Library," the Library's main catalogue.
Many books and manuscripts are on general public display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, seven days a week at no charge. Exhibits include Beowulf, a Gutenberg Bible, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Captain Cook's journal, Jane Austen's History of England, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a room devoted to Magna Carta. Frequent thematic exhibitions have included: maps, sacred texts and the history of the English language.
The British Library Newspapers section, based in Colindale, North London, has an almost complete collection of British and Irish newspaper issues published since 1840. In addition the Thomason Tracts contain 7,200 17th century newspapers. Online access is provided for up to 4 million fully searchable pages - with 8,000 new pages being added each day every day.
The Sound Archive, with over a million discs and 185,000 tapes, has a collection of worldwide recorded sound, including: music, drama, literature, oral history and wildlife sounds - spanning more than 100 years. It includes the BBC Sound Archive of broadcasts since the 1930's. Their online gallery includes 30,000 items.