About the Library & the archives

The Royal Astronomical Society has a world-class collection in astronomy and geophysics that is far more comprehensive than the libraries of most universities and research institutions.

The Library receives some 300 current periodicals in astronomy and geophysics and has holdings of over 3,000 ceased titles. It contains more than 10,000 books from popular level to conference proceedings and in addition has the second-largest specialist collection of astronomical rare books in Britain (only the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh has more) with over 5,000 items published before 1851. The RAS Library is thus a major resource of considerable value not just to the Society but also to the wider community of astronomers, geophysicists, and historians.

At a time when academic libraries are under threat, the RAS Library is an increasingly important benefit for Fellows of the Society. The first steps are being taken to introduce wider electronic access. The Book and Journal Catalogue can be searched online. Rare books are not yet included.

Services such as photocopying, photography, scanning, wi-fi, power outlets for laptops and a microfilm reader are available.

Books are normally lent only to members of the Society, although they may be made available through the inter-library loan system. Microfilms can be created from books and manuscripts, but this tends to take a long time as few requests are received and the filming is done by an outside firm.

Finding-aids to facilitate access to these collections, apart from the knowledge of the staff, include catalogues, indexes, and reference material.

The formal Library Regulations are available for guidance.



The Catalogue of the Archives and Manuscripts of the RAS is available on-line, as is a catalogue of the Herschel Archive of papers by William, John and Caroline Herschel. A scanned version of the full Herschel Archive is available for purchase on CD or DVD.


More information

More pictures of the Library can be seen as part of the virtual tour of Burlington House.