While it is well-known that the British Library receives by law a copy of every book published in the UK, you may not know that we buy material published abroad in all languages. Our collections from continental Europe in humanities and social sciences subjects cover all languages and formats ranging from manuscripts and printed books to electronic resources, newspapers, maps and sound recordings.
Amongst our great strengths are our language and literature collections which cover not only all the national languages of Europe but also minority languages such as Basque, Catalan, Galician, Occitan, Romansch, Faroese, Greenlandic, Lusatian, Aromanian, etc not to mention Esperanto. Our linguistic collections include both material in the languages and studies (often in English) on them.
In literature we have all major critical editions of authors considered part of each nation’s canon and good coverage of modern authors. We also have historical collections of popular and folk literature in many languages and a small but growing collection of graphic novels.
As well as literary texts, we collect academic studies and periodicals on literary topics, including ‘little magazines’ where the works of contemporary authors are often published for the first time. Translations into English published or distributed in the UK are of course received by legal deposit.
Curators in European & American Collections are responsible for developing and promoting the collections and making sure they are accessible to all who wish to use them. Colleagues in other parts of the British Library who work with manuscripts and archives are developing collections of translators’ papers, a recent acquisition being the papers of Michael Meyer, the renowned translator of Ibsen. This collection is the focus of one of our collaborative activities with the HE sector – collaborative doctoral schemes, where PhD students undertake research on the collections co-supervised by British Library curators.
We also collect sound recordings of both readings and interviews with writers, such as the Between Two Worlds project.
Anyone over 18 can access the Library’s collections with a valid reader pass.
We have a lively programme of cultural events, seminars and activities which draw on the strengths of these collections, the expertise of our curators and a whole range of partners who help us to bring the collections to life and open them up to a diverse public. European Literature Night, which each year goes from strength to strength, is of course one of our flagship events and we also collaborate with HE partners, publishers and translators to organise seminars, readings and other events – past successes have included seminars on European Crime Fiction, European Travel Writing and a Balkan Day. You can find out more about BL events via our website.
You can explore the collections using our online catalogue, and you can find out more about our European collections in all disciplines and about many different aspects of European culture and society on our European Studies Blog.