I didn’t get to see this room last time I was in the British Museum, which was just after it re-opened, either because it wasn’t open or I got muddled up with signage. Probably the latter. It’s the room which housed the King’s Library between 1827 and 1998, with the books now moved to a new display area at the British Library at its new site nearby.
It held the library of books that were collected by King George III and which were given to the nation by his son, King George IV. It’s suspected he did this mainly to avoid paying to maintain them, but either way, the nation benefitted from this legacy. He made the demand that the collection must be kept separate from the rest of the library’s volumes, which has been honoured. Unfortunately, a few hundred books were destroyed during air raids in the Second World War, but most of the collection has survived the last 200 years.
The room is used today by the British Museum as an “Enlightenment Gallery” which is interesting, although there’s not a great deal of linkage to literature. But, I suppose, that’s the job of the British Library now. Anyway, it’s a beautiful room and the bookshelves have all been left in situ.
A drawing (© The Trustees of the British Museum – https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_2003-0227-1) by Eugene Armand Roy from 1851 and it’s the earliest known colour representation of the old King’s Library in the British Museum.