National Marine Biological Library

A Virtual Tour

National Marine Biological Library

The Laboratory | Citadel Hill | Plymouth | PL1 2PB Facebook Twitter

The library was opened in 1887 to support the research being undertaken by scientists working at The Marine Biological Association (MBA). It is one of the largest marine reference libraries in the world holding the following collections:

  • over 4,500 journal titles
  • 15,000 books
  • an extensive selection of reports, grey literature, reprints
  • expedition reports that cover the vast majority of the world.
  • thousands of electronic journals 
  • a unique object collection
  • the institutional and personal archive collection
  • a world class herbarium
  • the research libraries of several eminent MBA scientists. (More of that later)

The library and its collections are available for use by staff, students and MBA members. You can also pay a fee for a day’s visit.

The Rich History of The Marine Biological Association

In 1866 the Royal Commission on the Sea Fisheries reported that fears of over-exploitation of the sea fisheries were unfounded and recommended removing existing laws regulating fishing grounds and closed seasons:

“I believe that it may be affirmed with confidence that in relation to our present modes of fishing, a number of the most important fisheries, such as the cod fishery, the herring fishery and the mackerel fishery, are inexhaustible.”  

T.H. Huxley, English biologist and anthropologist specialising in comparative anatomy and the first president of the Marine Biological Association (MBA)

However, R Lankester argued

 “If man removes a large proportion of these fish from the areas which they inhabit, the natural balance is upset and chiefly in so far as the production of young fish is concerned.” 

R. Lankester (Zoologist and founder of the MBA)

Lankester finished his presentation with an appeal for the formation of a society to foster the study of marine life. He envisaged that such a society would construct a laboratory close to the coast, with the building containing aquaria and apparatus for the circulation of seawater and, most importantly, laboratory accommodation for scientists.

The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom was formed at a meeting held in the rooms of the Royal Society in London on 31 March 1884. 

The Evolution of the Library

The National Marine Biological Library was founded in 1887 to support the newly created Marine Biological Association. It plays a central role in supporting this research through the provision of a unique international collection of printed and online resources focusing on marine science.

Lots has happened over the 130 years. Take a look back at the whos, whats and whens of the library’s diverse history.

Click on the next page for a visit to the library…

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