Reading Room display


Kew’s Library contains nearly 2,000 years of plant knowledge and discovery including information on the naming, classification and uses of plants, plant ecology and conservation, and wild plants of the world. Additional key areas of interest include botanic gardens and herbaria worldwide, the history of gardening and garden design, and biographical materials on botanists and gardeners. The Library also holds items on the history of Kew Gardens and Wakehurst.

Introduction to the collection

The Library, together with the Illustrations and Archives collections at Kew, forms one of the most important botanical reference sources in the world. The holdings, of both printed and original source material, extend back to the fourteenth century and include most of the important works relating to botany ever published. The collection is used to support Kew’s science but is also frequently consulted by visitors from across the globe to support their research in a diverse range of academic disciplines. It is also available to the public on weekdays via our Reading Room.

Contents of the collection

The Library’s main subject area is plant taxonomy and systematics but the collection also contains a variety of other materials that are suitable for a non-specialist audience. These include items on the history of garden design, botanic gardens and biographical information on botanists and gardeners. There is also a collection of maps and travel literature relating to expeditions and regions of botanical importance.

The collections comprise 300,000 printed volumes, 5,000 journal titles and 20,000 maps and can be consulted in the Library, Art & Archives Reading Room.

Using the library

Find out more about the library collections, electronic resources, the history of the library and how to arrange a visit.

Library, Art & Archives blog

Browse our blogs to find information about Kew's collections, services and fascinating work that is taking place.

Joseph Hooker Collection

The Joseph Hooker Correspondence Project is conserving, digitising, transcribing and making available online the personal and scientific correspondence of Joseph Hooker (1817-1911), an important - but often overlooked - 19th century naturalist and explorer.