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Enlightenment: Classifying the World
King George III's Library
During the eighteenth century many wealthy men aspired to own a library that would show that they were 'gentlemen'. Their libraries contained not only books, but also artefacts, especially coins and medals. These objects were considered as historical evidence that could be interpreted in the light of knowledge from the books in the libraries.
George III (reigned 1760-1820) had these ambitions for his own library and had the money to create one that could cover all areas of knowledge. But he also intended it to be a national asset and allowed scholars to use it in Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace).
The thousands of books in George III's library were catalogued by subject matter. It also contained a large collection of coins and medals. Like other collections of coins and medals, these were arranged in sequences that related them to the chronologies of written histories.
The library came to the British Museum in 1823, and was housed in a purpose-built room that became known as the King's Library.
Illustration: The interior of the King's Library at the British Museum in 1851