William Godwin's Diary


The British Museum came into being primarily due to the sale of Sir Hans Sloane’s large collections of books, antiquities, and manuscripts to the nation for £20,000 in 1753. Governed by a body of Trustees responsible to Parliament, its collections belonged to the nation, with free admission for all when it opened on 15 January 1759. Funding was provided initially through a public lottery which raised just over £100,000. The library was opened at Montagu House on Great Russell Street. Entry was given to 'all studious and curious Persons’, linking public enjoyment with education. Joseph Planta was principal librarian from 1799-1827 when Godwin made use of the library. P.R. Harris, A History of the British Museum Library, 1753-1973 (London: British Library, 1998), pp. 1-107.