Research Libraries

These are non-corporate research libraries that are not part of a university or college (although they may have affiliations with one or more academic institutions). They are sometimes maintained by privately-endowed non-profit institutions and sometimes by government agencies.




The research library at the Babraham Institute, a biological sciences research institute near Cambridge, England.



The New Library of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, a professional membership organization which has existed since 1684. The New Library was designed by David Bryce (1803-76) and finished in 1876. The very Victorian space features beautiful wood paneling and glass-fronted bookcases around the perimeter and bookcase bays, a balconied upper level and a spectacular coffered ceiling. It retains its original furnishings and still houses part of the College's fine collection of medical literature and historical documents, and was extensively restored in 1994. It is available for weddings and other events.

Here is a virtual tour of this beautiful room in which you can see all parts of the space from the floor to the ceiling and in all directions.



The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Governed under Amherst College, the library is home to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials and to major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art. It opened in 1932 as a gift to the American nation from Henry Clay and Emily Jordan Folger.



The Library of the Upper Lusatia Society of Sciences in Gorlitz, Germany.



The Malloch Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine Library, in New York City. Although the library was established in the 19th century, it has resided in its current Romanesque-style building since 1926. It contains 550,000 books and 32,000 rare books: some amazing treasures in the history of medical publications, including the first Greek edition of Hippocrates’ complete works published in Venice in 1526, a 16th-century BC Egyptian papyrus written in hieratic script and a ninth-century Roman cookbook manuscript. And it's completely open to public.



The Biblioteca Hertziana in Rome, Italy. The library was founded as part of the Max Plank institute of Art in 1913 and is located in a building complex consisting of the Palazzo Zuccari, the Palazzo Stroganoff and Villino Stroganoff. In 1590, the painter Federico Zuccari acquired the Palazzo to start an Academy of European artists and painted beautiful frescoes on the ceilings of the ground-level rooms. The library contains about 260,000 books covering the history of Italian art from the middle-ages to the modern period. Access is limited to recommended scholars.



7507 (Law Society of Upper Canada Archives)

The main reading room in the Great Library of the Law Society of Upper Canada. The Great Library was designed by Cumberland and Storm from 1857–1860 and features an ornate plaster ceiling, cork floors, and etched glass windows. A War Memorial by Frances Norma Loring (1887–1968), sculpted in 1928, was added to the Library in honor of Ontario lawyers and law students killed during the First World War.


The library at the Society of Antiquaries of London, at Burlington House, London. The Society's Library is the oldest and largest archaeological research library in the UK. Having acquired material since the early eighteenth century, the Library's holds more than 100,000 volumes. The Library holds significant collections of British county histories, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century books on the antiquities of Britain and other countries, and periodical titles (British and foreign) dating back to the early to mid-nineteenth century.

7509 (Thanks to Zach L. for the suggestion)

The Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas. I debated whether to put this library in Church Libraries, but it is truly a Research Library, although one built in the style of some of the world’s most beautiful religious and academic libraries. The library was built in 2010 (in less than six months) by Texas trial lawyer (asbestos and Vioxx cases) Mark Lanier, on his 35-acre property in Houston, along with a chapel, cemetery and replica Cotswold village holding kitchen, restrooms and wedding staging areas.

Lanier, a Biblical Languages and Law graduate, designed the buildings himself, modeling the library on his favorite Oxford University libraries. It has a capacity for 120,000 volumes, although it has not yet filled to capacity with acquisitions of papers and personal libraries from theology scholars. The library also displays artifacts such as Biblical-era coins, daggers, and a replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

This is an incredibly beautiful library, the kind that rarely gets built any more. Kudos to Mr. Lanier for sharing his wealth and knowledge with the public. The library is open to the public, although the materials do not circulate.