Height: 100.000 mm
Width: 139.000 mm
Archives CE114/623 (York Album)
Frederick York, The King's Library, a photograph
London, England, AD 1875
'One of the finest rooms in London'
In 1823 King George IV presented his father's library to the nation. It was to be housed at The British Museum and Sir Robert Smirke was asked to draw up plans for an eastern extension to the Museum '... for the reception of the Royal Library, and a Picture Gallery over it ...'.
The extension, the East Wing, was completed by 1831. However, following the founding of the National Gallery in 1824, the proposed Picture Gallery was no longer needed, and the space on the upper floor was given over to the Natural History collections.
The King's Library, on the ground floor of the East Wing, was described as one of the finest rooms in London but was not a public area until 1857. However, special openings were arranged: during the Great Exhibition of 1851 visitors to the Museum were able to walk through the room and enjoy a display of rare books and manuscripts. Its splendour is captured in this photograph of 1875 by Frederick York.
The King's Library books were moved to the new British Library building at St Pancras in 1998. This magnificent room is awaiting restoration and is currently used as an exhibition gallery.