The Horniman Library collection contains books from the 16th century through to the current day, covering a spectrum of subjects.

Our books, journals and other publications and formats range from academic texts to accounts by early explorers and illustrated monographs. The collection covers a broad range of subjects reflecting the remit of the Horniman; natural history, anthropology and musical instruments.

The collection, which originated with Frederick Horniman’s own book collection, has been added to by subsequent Directors, Curators and Librarians and now amounts to some 30,000 volumes.

The development of the Library collections has been closely linked to object acquisition and curatorial practice in the Horniman and so there is a strong connection between the library and object collections.

Star items from the Library collection have featured in our exhibitions:

  • Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins was featured in The Lore of the Land
  • ‘Body Adorned’ exhibition showcased a fascinating case of our ethnological books
  • ‘Amazon Adventure’ featured three of our books about Amazon exploration

Additionally, you can sometimes see some of our books in Object in Focus exhibitions.

Visiting the Library

The Library is open by appointment only on alternate Mondays and Tuesdays (with some exceptions). Please contact the Librarian to make an appointment via the email address below. Dates for 2024:

  • 6, 12, 20 and 26 February
  • 5, 11, 19 and 26 March
  • 2, 8, 16, 22 and 30 April
  • 7, 14, and 20 May
  • 11, 17 and 25 June
  • 1, 9, 15 and 30 July