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The Horniman Library collection contains books from 16th century through to the current day. Holdings range from academic texts to accounts by early explorers and illustrated monographs. The collection covers a wide spectrum of subject areas covering the remit of the museum; 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 museum and thus there is a strong connection between the book and object collections.

The Library collection is primarily a resource for Horniman staff, and scholars with specific research needs. Public access is maintained to the library collections through our family reading programmes including pop up library events in the museum and family reading spaces in our galleries, including the Under 5s Book Zone beside the Apostle clock on the North Hall Balcony.

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

  • 'Body Adorned' featured 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 special 'Object in Focus' exhibitions.

Visiting the Library

The library is staffed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and open to researchers on these days by appointment.

To contact the librarian or make an appointment, please email enquiry@horniman.ac.uk

Our Library Open Days are on the first Sunday of every month. Join us from 10am – 5.30pm to browse the shelves, chat to the librarian and explore our collections further. No appointment necessary.