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The British National Bibliography

The national bibliography records the publishing activity of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and as such is a measure of their intellectual output. This has traditionally included printed publications and more recently has been extended to electronic publications following the extension of legal deposit to this class of material in 2003.

New books and serials have been recorded in the British National Bibliography (BNB) since 1950. The BNB is the single most comprehensive listing of UK titles. UK and Irish publishers are obliged by law to send a copy of all new publications, including serial titles, to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library. This material is catalogued by experienced staff in accordance with international standards for resource description and access. This work is done in partnership with the five other British and Irish libraries allowed by law the privilege of legal deposit, under the Legal Deposit Libraries Shared Cataloguing Programme (LDLSCP).

The BNB also contains details of forthcoming books. Under the Cataloguing-in-Publication Programme (CIP) information on new titles appears up to 16 weeks ahead of the announced publication date. Advance information on well over 50,000 titles each year is provided in this way.

The coverage of the BNB has always been selective (see exclusions policy) with the emphasis being on mainstream monographs available through normal book buying channels.

The availability of BNB records was traditionally shown by the BNBMARC hit-rate derived from the currency survey carried out by the UK Office for Library and Information Networking (UKOLN), but this was discontinued from 1st April 2005 (further information is available by following the link above).

All of BNB is available for searching here. Our Z39.50 service allows downloading records in MARC21 for free.

New records are available as a weekly PDF or as RDF/XML

All of BNB is available in basic RDF/XML. For further information, see here.

A subset of the BNB, i.e. books and serials has been published as Linked Open Data. For further information, see here. Bulk downloads in N-Triples and RDF/XML are available here.

A brief history of the last 60 years and latest developments is now available (PDF format 286KB).

Extending the scope of the British National Bibliography

Other discrete areas of publishing activity contribute to the national bibliography, not all of which are covered by the British Library. Government and many other official publications, for example, are recorded in the catalogues produced by the Stationery Office. In co-operation with other organisations, Metadata Services is currently developing plans for further extending the scope and coverage of the national bibliography. For example, records for UK online electronic resources began to appear in the BNB from the third week of February 2003.

The titles which make up that part of the national bibliography published by the British Library, and the records they contain, are available to search online and download in MARC format via the Z39.50 service.


For further information please contact:

The British Library
Metadata Services
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ
United Kingdom

Email: metadata@bl.uk