Friends of the British Library

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Friends of the British Library
Abbreviation FBL
Formation 1989
Type Charity
Purpose Supports the British Library with grants for acquisitions, exhibitions, new equipment, facilities, and other activities.
  • 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
Region served
Approx. 3,000
Approx. 30
Remarks Current President: Lord Salisbury
Chairman: Ferdinand Mount
File:British Library Friends' Room.JPG
Interior of Friends Room at the British Library

The Friends of the British Library is a registered charitable organisation in the UK with close links to the British Library. It provides funding in the form of grants to the British Library in order to allow the Library to acquire new items and collections, procure new equipment and facilities, and produce exhibitions.


The inaugural meeting of the Friends was held on 12 January 1989 with the objective of "the education of the public by promotion, support, assistance and improvement of the British Library through the activities of a group of Friends".[1] It operates under a written constitution as an unincorporated association and registered charity.

The Friends first President was Lord Eccles, a man heavily involved in the original creation of the British Library via the British Library Act (1972) as well as being the British Library's first Chairman. He would be President of the Friends from its creation in 1989 until his death in 1999. The first Chairman of the Friends of the British Library was Christopher Henry Beaumont Pease, 2nd Baron Wardington. He became a Vice President in 1994, and President in 1999 – a post he held until his death in 2005.[2]

President and council

The hierarchy of the Friends include a President, several Vice Presidents, a Chairman and deputy, and a council of members.[3] The council members are trustees of the charity for the purposes of charity law.

Officers and members of the council are elected as required by the Constitution of the membership at each year's Annual General Meeting. The current President of the Friends is Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 7th Marquess of Salisbury and the Vice Presidents consist of Lord Bragg of Wigton, Frank Field MP, William Hague MP, Lord Hameed, Lord Jones of Birmingham, Sir Geoffrey Leigh, Penelope Lively, Sir Andrew Motion, Cdr Michael Saunders Watson and Lord Steel of Aikwood.[3] The Chairman of the Friends is Ferdinand Mount,[4] and Deputy Chairman is Christopher Wright.


The Friends principally fund acquisitions for the British Library's collections that it would not otherwise be able to fund from its own finances.

Such acquisitions have included author Graham Swift's archive, which included manuscripts, notes, revisions and proofs to all eight of his novels including the Booker Prize-winning Last Orders.[5]

Funding has also included a contribution towards the £500,000 required in order to purchase the Ted Hughes archive, a former poet laureate, which included more than 220 files and boxes of manuscripts.[6]

One acquisition was the Macclesfield Alphabet, a collection of 14 different types of alphabet that date from around 1500 AD. The Friends collaborated with the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund, members of the British Library and several individual donors in order to enable the British Library to purchase the book.[7]

Dering Roll

Those three charities had previously collaborated, along with Friends of the National Libraries, to purchase the Dering Roll in 2008. The Dering Roll is the oldest extant English roll of arms, dating from around 1270 AD. It depicts 324 coats of arms which are approximately a quarter of the entire English baronage during the reign of Edward I. It was purchased by the British Library at auction for £194,184 (including VAT).[8]

Bust of King George III

In 1998 the Friends purchased Peter Turnerelli's 1812 marble bust of King George III to commemorate the move of the King's Library into the new facility at St. Pancras.[9] The bust was purchased entirely by the Friends for the sum of £25,000. It is currently on public display on the first floor, at the head of the stairs at the main British Library facility in St. Pancras.[10]

Mary Welch

The single largest contribution that the Friends have made towards the British Library was the grant of £130,000 towards a new conservation room as part of a bequest from the late Mary Welsh. She was a Friends volunteer and conservation enthusiast.[11][12]

Mervyn Peake's archive

The Friends again collaborated with the British Library, The Art Fund, Friends of the National Libraries and individual donors to purchase Mervyn Peake's archive for a sum of £410,000. The archive included 39 Gormenghast notebooks, as well as the complete set of original drawings for the 1954 edition of Lewis Caroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.[13]

The archive itself dates from between 1940 to Peake's death in 1968 and includes unpublished material such as correspondence with writers Laurie Lee, Walter de la Mare and CS Lewis. It also included the unpublished draft of the sequel to the Gormenghast trilogy, Titus Awakes which is to be published in 2011 by Vintage Classics to celebrate the centenary of Peake's birth.[13]

See also


  1. "Friends of the British Library Annual Report 2004/05" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  2. "Obituary: Lord Wardington". 12 July 2005. Retrieved 8 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Friends of the British Library Annual Report 2006/07" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Sexton, Ed (11 March 2009). "Graham Swift's archive acquired by the British Library". Retrieved 7 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  6. Savage, Mark (15 October 2008). "Library acquires Hughes archives". BBC News. Retrieved 7 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Sinclair, Mark (29 July 2009). "Macclesfield Alphabet at the British Library". Creative Review. Retrieved 7 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "British Library acquires Dering Roll". National Heritage Memorial Fund. 2 September 2008. Retrieved 8 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "British Library Prints & Drawings full record display for shelfmark BLWA 17". Retrieved 14 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  10. "Biography of Peter Turnerelli". Retrieved 14 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Friends of Libraries Australia - International News". Retrieved 14 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "HRH The Princess Royal opens new British Library Centre for Conservation". Retrieved 27 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Thorpe, Vanessa (4 April 2010). "How the devastation caused by war came to inspire an artist's dark images of Alice". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Day, Alan Edwin (1998). Inside the British Library. Library Association Publishing (UK). ISBN 1-85604-280-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Saunders Watson, Michael (2008). I am Given a Castle. Quiller Press. ISBN 1-899163-88-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kenny, Sir Anthony (1994). The British Library and the St Pancras Building. British Library. ISBN 0-7123-0395-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dainton, Fred (2001). Doubts and Certainties. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 1-84127-168-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links