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Grants and Donations

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Here we celebrate highlights from the past year which came about thanks to the vital support of individual donors, grant-making bodies and companies.

The continuing generosity of the British Library’s many supporters ensures that we are able to maintain our position as one of the world’s greatest research libraries. 

Henry VIII: Man and Monarch

Thanks to the generosity of Mr Mark C Pigott OBE and PACCAR Inc, our summer exhibition, Henry VIII: Man and Monarch, celebrated the life and reign of this most colourful of English kings. Guest-curated by historian and broadcaster, Dr David Starkey, the exhibition drew on the Library’s own rich collections, including the books that Henry himself chose, read and annotated. PACCAR’s sponsorship enabled us to create an engaging and visually stunning exhibition which attracted great acclaim from critics and visitors alike.

Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project

Thanks to a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, we have digitised 250 of our unique Greek manuscripts to make them fully accessible to researchers around the world through the internet at The Greek manuscripts collection is arguably the largest and most important resource for the study of Hellenic culture and civilization outside Greece, with texts ranging in date from the time of the creation of the Iliad and Odyssey through the Hellenistic, early Christian, Byzantine and Ottoman eras and beyond to the creation of the Greek nation state. Full catalogue records for each item have also been created to enable researchers to search using key words. A further grant from the Foundation made during the year will enable us to extend the project to digitise and add a further 250 manuscripts to the site, representing half of all our Greek manuscripts. We are continuing to fundraise to digitise the remaining half and our papyri collections.

Naval Journal of Sir John Narbrough

We were delighted to be able to save the rare seventeenth century Naval Journal of Sir John Narbrough for the nation, thanks to the generosity of a number of donors, including the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Estate of Dr Bernard H Breslauer via the American Trust for the British Library, the Gosling Foundation and many individual donors. Narbrough’s Journal brings to life in vivid detail the trials and tribulations of one of England’s most eminent explorers and provides the fullest known account of his voyage to South America from 1669-71. Beautifully illustrated in Narbrough’s own hand, the Journal contains fascinating depictions of the peoples and animals of South America together with highly sophisticated descriptions of coastlines.  Sir John Narbrough’s Naval Journal is of major importance to the history of English mapmaking and its acquisition will contribute to a thorough evaluation of the history of English exploration.

The Mervyn Peake Archive

Our other major acquisition for the year was the Mervyn Peake Archive, which we were able to purchase thanks to The Art Fund, Friends of the British Library, Friends of the National Libraries and individual donors. Mervyn Peake was one of the most creative artists of the twentieth century. Although he is most famous for his Gormenghast novels, he was also a prolific artist, playwright and poet. This remarkable archive of drawings, letters and manuscripts gives a unique insight into his life and work. It comprises 39 autograph Gormenghast notebooks together with the complete set of original drawings for Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland, short stories, war poems, radio plays and nonsense verse.

Conservation and Preservation

The Library continues to show leadership in the fields of conservation and preservation, with ongoing year-long book conservation internships, generously supported by the Headley Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund, the Radcliffe Trust, Peck Stacpoole Trust, the American Trust for the British Library and the Stockman Family Foundation, as well as sound archiving internships supported by the Haymills Charitable Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund. This year also saw the integration of the National Preservation Office into the Library’s Collection Care department and its relaunch as the Preservation Advisory Centre under the leadership of Caroline Peach. The Centre will continue its advisory, training and support services to the UK’s libraries and archives in a range of preservation matters, whilst developing a new range of training and support services for the future. We are grateful to the J Paul Getty Jnr Trust, the Pilgrim Trust and Research Libraries UK for their support of the Preservation Advisory Centre.

Oral History of British Science

The Arcadia Fund has enabled National Life Stories to launch a new oral history fieldwork project to create a major archive of contemporary science in Britain. This project will seek to collect unique personal testimonies of scientific discovery through 200 in-depth interviews with British scientists averaging 10-15 hours in length. These will be complemented by some shorter video recordings reflecting key events or locations, as well as at least one group ‘witness seminar’ for each of the project’s four themed strands: The Factory of Life, Cosmologies, Made in Britain and A Changing Planet. The Arcadia Fund has funded two of these strands and we are grateful for the additional support of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.


The British Library would like to thank its very loyal and thriving group of Patrons for their endorsement and generosity. Their much-appreciated gifts provide a vital source of funding for essential projects across the Library, enabling us to present inspiring exhibitions and open up our collections to new and diverse audiences. This year the level of support from Library Patrons reached new highs with membership increasing by more than 20%. Members also enjoyed a more ambitious, and very well-received, calendar of events. The expanded Programme included an external visit and, on a beautiful day in January, Patrons were granted special access to private collections at Eton College and Royal Windsor, interspersed with lunch and relaxed afternoon tea. Other notable highlights were a collaborative event with the Charleston Trust to celebrate the writings and archives of the Bloomsbury Group, as well as a wonderfully engaging talk on botanical history by speaker, Andrea Wulf.

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