BMI Library

The Original Birmingham Library

The BMI is also home to the original Birmingham Library that was founded in 1779 by John Lee, a button manufacturer who lived at 115 Snow Hill. This private lending library was reorganised in 1781 by Joseph Priestley, the pioneering chemist who discovered oxygen. The library moved into a purpose-built location on Union Street in 1797 where it remained for just over a century until it moved to its present location on Margaret Street in 1899. The Birmingham & Midland Institute joined the Library in 1955, having moved from its original Victorian premises in Paradise Street.

The library’s holding is being steadily increased by the regular purchase of books, principally in the field of the humanities and modern fiction. It continues, as it has in the past, to benefit from gifts and bequests made to it by generous members. Many of these acquisitions are of considerable value. (link to document ‘the history of the Birmingham Library’)

The Library has a total holding of over 120,000 books including:

  • 18th century volumes from the earliest years of the library.
  • 19th and 20th century purchases, including books on history, literature, natural history, science and travel
  • Late 19th and early 20th century novels and detective fiction
  • Over 6000 biographies and autobiographies
  • Over 3000 CDs of classical music
BMI Library

The Library collection is being steadily increased by the regular purchase of new books, principally in the fields of art, science, poetry and modern fiction. It is also home to the Deeley Collection; a bequest from the estate of a former Member, Robert Deeley. It consists of books in the fields of Architecture, Church History, Landscape, Archaeology and Topography, and is housed separately from the main library. It may be accessed by arrangement with the Institute’s Administrator. The Library continues, as it has in the past, to benefit from gifts and bequests made to it by generous members.

Please direct specific enquiries about our library collection to and one of our volunteers will contact you.

BMI Library
BMI Library
BMI Library


The Library is a facility available for use by BMI Members only; they may borrow books and CDs free of charge. Membership starts at £16.50 (per year) – see our Membership page to learn more.

Researchers And Academics

We encourage researchers, practitioners and academics to access our unique collection of historic books, journals and magazines which date back to the seventeenth century. Included in our collection are bound copies of The Owl, The Dart and The Gridiron; nineteenth-century satirical magazines, specific to Birmingham.

Library Blog

The Library is manned by our energetic team of volunteers! Hear about what they’ve been getting up to via their blog here.

Want To Volunteer?

We’re always looking for enthusiastic people to join our team of volunteers! Contact to register your interest!

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, as soon as we can.


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