Interior of the reading room at the British Museum, London, 1857.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. The British Museum was founded by an Act of Parliament in 1753 and in In 1757 King George II donated the 'Old Royal Library' and with it the privilege of copyright receipt. In 1823 the gift to the nation by George IV of his father's library provided the impetus for the construction of the quadrangular building designed by Sir Robert Smirke (1780-1867). The first phase, completed in 1852, was followed by the construction of the round Reading Room, designed by Sydney Smirke (1798-1877) and erected in the central courtyard in 1854-7. The central reading room has recently been restored and is open to the public.