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British Library Newspaper Collections

Newspapers in The British Library

British Library Newspapers at Colindale has now closed, and the majority of printed material is under embargo. Find out more at our Newspaper Moves page.

We have created a short guide to newspaper collections which you will be able to access until March 2014.

The British Library's newspaper collections are founded on two special collections:

  • The Thomason Collection of Civil War Tracts, which consist of Civil War and other 17th-century newsbooks and newspapers, which were presented to the British Museum in 1762;
  • The Burney Collection of Newspapers, bought by the Museum in 1818, which consists of 700 bound volumes of newspapers dating from 1603 to 1817, collected by the Revd Dr Charles Burney (1757-1817).

Systematic collection of newspapers did not really begin until 1822. At this time publishers were obliged to supply copies of their newspapers to the Stamp Office in order for them to be taxed. In 1822 it was agreed that these copies would be passed to the British Museum after a period of three years. From 1869 onwards newspapers were included in the legal deposit legislation and were deposited directly at the British Museum.

The British Library newspaper collections consist of:

  • over 664,000 bound volumes and parcels, occupying some 32 kilometres (or 20 miles) of shelves;
  • over 370,000 reels of microfilm, on 13 kilometres (or 8 miles) of shelf space;
  • holdings altogether occupying some 45 kilometres (or 28 miles) of shelving in total.
  • there are over 52,000 separate newspaper, journal, and periodical titles.

Search the Newspaper catalogue subset on the Explore the British Library to locate the titles you require.

Collections Development Policy

The following policy operates under the Library's general policy statements with respect to collection development.

The British Library's collection of newspapers is largely built through the action of legal deposit legislation. Currently about 2,600 UK and Irish newspaper and weekly/fortnightly periodical titles are received, which represents about 90% of current acquisitions. This includes the main London edition of the national daily and Sunday newspapers, and free newspapers, with the exception of those consisting entirely of advertising.

Major overseas newspapers in European languages are collected, where possible on microfilm, selectively to complement the UK and Irish collections. About 250 titles are currently received, including the most significant newspapers from most English-speaking countries and from western and eastern Europe.

British and Irish Newspapers

British Library Newspapers aims to acquire all newspapers published in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland, including free newspapers, and our collections of newspapers from the British Isles are the finest in the world. We estimate that we receive approximately 70% of the free newspapers published. We do not keep free newspapers which consist solely of advertising, but otherwise we treat them exactly the same as paid-for newspapers.

  • English provincial, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish newspapers (as well as those from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) date back to 1699 in their original, hard-copy format, but are by no means comprehensive in the early years.
  • Our holdings of British national and provincial papers from the mid-19th century to the present are fairly comprehensive, although some gaps remain.
  • London papers pre-1801 are by tradition held in the main British Library in St Pancras, although we have microfilm copies of most of them.
  • Our holdings of Irish newspapers are the best in the world, as the collection held in Dublin was largely destroyed in 1922 during the Civil War.

The British Isles collections are able to support in-depth research into countless areas of humanities, social science, and science study, including, for instance, British military history.  Notable among our special collections are the holdings of English Armed Forces Newspapers, which are particularly strong for the 1940s, as well as the General Strike Newspapers of 1926.

Search the Newspaper catalogue subset on the Explore the British Library to locate the titles you require.

Overseas Newspapers

Collier's 26 September 1903

Collier's 26 September 1903. Copyright © The British Library Board

Research collections of world importance are held for newspapers published in West and East European languages from countries all across the world, with some titles dating back to 1631. About 250 overseas titles currently received via purchase, exchange, or donation are added to the historic foreign collections.

Our collections are extensive for newspapers from the Commonwealth countries, which were formerly received through colonial copyright deposit, as well as those from other nations including France, Germany, Russia, and the USA. Most overseas newspapers are currently purchased on microfilm rather than in the original hard copy.

Search the Newspaper catalogue subset on the Explore the British Library to locate the titles you require.

The original hard copies of some post-1850 overseas newspapers held in the Newspaper collection on microfilm have been donated to other national and research libraries around the world. A Disposal of Overseas Newspapers listing provides the titles and dates of the relevant newspapers, along with the location of the library which now holds the hard copies concerned.

British Library Newspapers does not keep copies of newspapers in oriental and middle-eastern scripts, including those published in the United Kingdom and received via legal deposit. These are held at the British Library's Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections. For full details, please see Related Material Elsewhere in the British Library.

Periodicals and Comics

British Library Newspapers also currently acquires British and Irish periodicals, predominantly weekly and fortnightly ones, received via legal deposit. These are mainly those at the popular end of the market, and they cover an enormous range of subjects, for example:

In addition, the Library contains an outstanding British Comics Collection; and some of the more famous titles in this collection, dating from the 1870s until the present day, are given in the Select List of British Comics Held in the British Library Newspaper Library.

Major historic holdings of weekly, fortnightly, and monthly periodicals (as well as some published less frequently) are also held in the British Library Newspapers collection, ranging across such subject and collections areas as:

  • theatre and the music hall
  • football programmes
  • women's magazines (from suffragette papers to today's glossies)
  • radical and political papers (especially anarchist, Chartist and fascist)
  • British military history
  • religious periodicals
  • exile and ethnic minority newspapers and journals

Visual Arts Collections

'Weltfeierabend' Simplicissimus 14 April 1913

'Weltfeierabend' Simplicissimus 14 April 1913. Copyright © The British Library Board

Newspapers and journals contain a great deal of illustrative material. These range from the woodcut mastheads (sometimes showing fine city scenes) and the advertisements of our 18th-century holdings, the prints and engravings in our 19th-century collections, to the ever-increasing presence of photographs in our 20th- and 21st-century papers.

The collection of British and overseas collections of 19th- and 20th-century illustrated periodicals, however, offer the richest sources of all for researchers interested in the visual arts

In particular, Christmas issues and other special supplements of celebrated Victorian and Edwardian magazines - typically those commemorating a royal anniversary or paying tribute on the death of a monarch - employ vibrant illustrations and meticulous design of the very finest standards.

Instead of paper, cloth such as satin or silk would occasionally be used for printing upon, to create a valuable keepsake of a portrait or print.

Collection strengths for visual arts materials in the Newspaper Library include:

  • Illustrated fashion magazines from the early 19th century onwards, covering both men's and women's fashion, notably:
  • The Delineator: A Journal of Fashion, Culture and Fine Arts (1893-1926);
  • Le Follet: Journal du grand monde, fashion, polite literature, beaux arts, &c (1846-1900);
  • Gallery of Fashion (1911-1914);
  • Gazette of Fashion and Cutting-Room Companion (1846-1888);
  • The Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion (1828-1894);
  • Journal des tailleurs, or, The Cutter's Monthly Journal (1856-1895); and
  • The Young Ladies Journal (1864-1920);

through to 20th-century glossies such as:

  • Eve (1919-1929);
  • The Gentlewoman (1890-1926);
  • The Queen (1861-1970)
  • The Graphic (1869-1932); and
  • The Sketch (1893-1959)
    as well as general illustrated magazines from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, including Sphere (1900-1964) and Picture Post (1938-1957).
  • The British Comics Collection, including such titles as:
  • Funny Cuts (1890-1920);
  • Mickey Mouse Weekly (1936-1955); and
  • Whizzer and Chips (1969-1990);

  • Political cartoons appearing in specialist titles, notably the colour series (for 1884 to 1892) in United Ireland (1881-1898), as well as generally in all kinds of newspapers;
  • British and overseas trade papers and journals, particularly of interest for prints of 19th-century industrial and commercial objects and machinery, including:
  • The Architect (1869-1980);
  • The Australasian Ironmonger (1886-1993);
  • The English Mechanic (1865-1926); and
  • Der Metallarbeiter (1884-1914).
  • American illustrated magazines from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, including:
  • Harper's Weekly (1857-1916);
  • The Ladies' Home Journal (1897-1963); and
  • McCall's Magazine (1921-1964);
  • European magazines and journals such as:
  • from Austria: Österreichs Illustrierte Zeitung (1914-1919);
  • from Denmark: Illustreret Tidende (1859-1924);
  • from France: L'Illustration (1843-1944); Le Monde Illustré (1857-1940; 1945-1948);
  • from Germany: Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (1914-1944); Illustrirte Zeitung (1843-1941); Simplicissimus (1896-1940);
  • from Italy: Il Fischietto (1848-1867);
  • from Poland: Tygodnik Ilustrowany (1859-1918);
  • from Spain: Blanco y Negro (1891-1936; 1957-1981); and
  • from Sweden: Illustrerad Tidning (1855-1867); Ny Illustrerad Tidning (1865-1900).

Search the Newspaper catalogue subset on the Explore the British Library to locate the titles you require.

Microform Series

The Newspaper collection includes copies of the following microform series which are not fully listed in the Catalogue. There are printed catalogues for each collection, which are shelved in the Main Reading Room below the catalogue terminals:

Chatham House Press Cuttings

The Library holds four collections of press cuttings, which were donated by the Royal Institute of International Affairs. These collections are not stored in the main building, and therefore delivery to the Reading Rooms is more limited and takes longer than the normal service.

These collections are:

  • Chatham House Press Library Collection, 1939-1971:
    A collection of over five million cuttings from European and American sources on all aspects of international affairs, arranged in annual sequences under geographical and subject headings. There is a separate index for each year which readers must consult in order to select boxes of cuttings;
  • International Information Bureau Collection, 1915-1920:
    305 boxes of cuttings on political, economic, legal, and military subjects;
  • League of Nations Intelligence Department Collection, 1920-1924:
    390 boxes of cuttings compiled by the League of Nations Union in London, largely from British newspaper sources;
  • Foreign Research and Press Service Collection, 1939-1945:
    2,300 boxes of cuttings collected during the Second World War to provide an accurate picture of how the news was reported in other countries.

Contact

Ask the Newspaper Reference Team a question by email.