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The Guildhall Library is administered by the Corporation of London, the government of the City of London, which is the historical heart of London, England. It was founded in the 1420s under the terms of the will of Lord Mayor Dick Whittington. It was originally housed in the Old Library at the Guildhall, and moved to modern premises elsewhere in the Guildhall complex in the 1970s.
The library is a public reference library and specialises in subjects relevant to London. The collection has its greatest depth on topics specifically concerned with the City, but also contains a great deal of material on the other parts of metropolitan London. It is divided into three main sections: printed books; manuscripts; and prints, maps and drawings. The material dates from the 11th century onwards.
William Herbert was elected librarian of the Guildhall Library, which had been recently re-established by the Corporation of London, in 1828. He prepared a second edition of the catalogue in 1840, and retired in 1845.
David Pearson has been Director of Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London since 2009.
There are specialist book collections on the following subjects:
- London and its history
- Local history
- Family history
- English law
- Parliamentary material
- Wine and food
- Clocks and clockmakers (incorporating also the libraries of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and of the Antiquarian Horological Society)
- Business history
- Marine history
- Several smaller collections
The local history collections are not restricted to London but cover the whole of the British Isles. In addition to complete sets of the Victoria County History of England volumes and Nikolaus Pevsner's Buildings of England, the library holds a collection of county, town and village histories, and also holds journals and other publications of many local history and archaeological societies.
The manuscripts include the archives of:
- The Diocese of London
- St Paul's Cathedral
- the City wards and parishes
- around 80 of the City livery companies
However the archives of the City of London itself are administered separately by the Corporation of London Records Office.
- Other materials
The print room is a prime source of historical pictures and maps of Greater London, with very diverse collections of prints, drawings, photographs, press cuttings, maps, theatre bills, and ephemera. A large amount of material has been placed online.
The City of London also runs several conventional public libraries.
- Guildhall Library section of the City of London's site
- Collage database of images from the City of London's collections