National Marine Biological Library

Visit the Library

The library is located at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth UK with stunning views of Plymouth Sound, the perfect inspiration for marine studies or research. While it’s closed to the public, we can offer a unique virtual tour of the premises and its contents.

Come and take a look inside


Take a look through the online catalogue, or sample a few of the following here:


There are 15,000 books in our collection.  These are located in the Southward Reading Room so come on in, find your favourite and make yourself comfortable! This collection includes marine natural history, exploration, climate change, analytical techniques and ID guides. 

Rare book treasures

The NMBL holds a unique collection of rare books including first editions and signed copies dating back to 1554. Here is a tantalising taste of the virtual tour we are working on:

In 2018 our wonderful volunteers began conservation work on our treasured rare book Collection. The work continues today.

Click here for the first of a series of book conservation workshops on YouTube delivered by New Media UFM.

Expedition Reports

The NMBL holds 147 expedition report series including the Challenger Reports, Beagle voyage and Prince Albert of Monaco investigating deep-sea, offshore, coastal and terrestrial environments, and in a variety of languages.


We have over 4,500 print journal titles, including complete original runs of Nature from 1869 and our own Journal of The Marine Biological Association (JMBA) dating back to 1887.

Electronic journals

Members have onsite access to thousands of the library’s e-journal titles. A complete list of electronic titles that we subscribe to can be found here.


The material in the Archives Collection reflects the history not only of the MBA, but also the origins and early history of British marine science. The collection includes: documents and records relating to the early history and development of the Association and its Laboratory, the research programmes, staff, visiting workers and membership, the buildings, ships, library, aquarium, journal, finance and administration, personal and scientific papers, letters, notebooks and documents, illustration and photographs.

Visit the website to see the archives we hold for the following people (click to find their names).


The herbarium containing hundreds of species from around the world can be found on the ground floor of the library. To protect the pressed seaweeds inside, it is kept locked and in darkness. More about this unique collection and the people who have contributed to it is available from the Library’s site.

Object Collection

The MBA Object Collection comprises over 100 science related artefacts. They have all been used, some even designed and built, at the Marine Biological Association. The collection provides a fascinating insight into the advancement of marine biology during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.   

Volunteers have worked hard to clean, restore, repair and display these objects. 

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