Tory Historian is a great supporter of the London Library, which is described by Wikipedia, probably accurately, as "the world's largest independent lending library, and the UK's leading literary institution".
Founded in 1841 by various people, but most notably Thomas Carlyle who was dissatisfied (as he so frequently was) with the British Library and did not, it is said, have enough books about the French Revolution, it has been at 14 St James's Square since 1845, always changing yet remaining the same. In the last few years a great deal of new space has been added through the purchase of an adjacent building and much construction and reconstruction the problems of which drove many members quite frantic. None of that work had been possible without the unparalleled generosity of Valerie Eliot, the great poet's widow, who donated £2.5 million. The new building, located behind the main St James's Square one, formerly known as Duchess House, is now called the T. S. Eliot House though TH would have preferred Old Possum House. Ah well, can't have everything.
This is what the Library itself has to say:
1841: As The London Library was founded in 1841 we've been taking a look at other significant literary events that took place in the same year and as well as being busy founding The London Library, Thomas Carlyle published On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History. Another early supporter of the Library, Charles Dickens, published The Old Curiosity Shop. In the same year Punch magazine was founded in London and Horace Greeley began publication of the New York Tribune.Hmmm.
All one can add is that the library's history collection is magnificent but nothing can beat the Reading Room and its extraordinarily comfortable armchairs. Warning: do not sink into them if you do not wish to fall asleep.