The Guildhall Library, or Free Library of the Corporation of the City of London, is reached either by a corridor running east from the porch of the Guildhall or from an entrance in Basinghall St. It is open daily, 10-6, and contains 190,000 printed volumes and pamphlets and over 11,000 manuscripts. It is especially rich in works on London and Middlesex (including 12,000 volumes of parish records) and possesses many valuable incunabula.
The Principal Library is a fine hall, 100 feet long and 50 feet high, built by Sir H. Jones in the Tudor style in 1870-72. It has seven book-lined bays on each side. On the timber ceiling are the arms of the 12 great livery companies, with those of the Leathersellers and Broderers, and 12 guild banners hang over the arcades. In the spandrels of the arches are the sculptured heads of distinguished men of letters, science, and art. The stained glass in the north window represents the Introduction of Printing into England, that to the south shows the arms of 21 of the minor livery companies. The bust of Chaucer is by Sir George Frampton, that of Tennyson by F, D. Williamson. Among the most important special collections are the libraries of the Guilds of Clockmakers and Cooks, the library of the Dutch Church in Austin Friars, the Cock Memorial Library of books by or connected with Sir Thomas More, the Willshire Collection (engravings), the Salomons Hebrew Library, and the Collection of Maps and Plans of London. Among individual objects of interest may be named Ralph Agas's Plan of London (1591; only other extant copy at Cambridge); the deed of sale of a house in Blackfriars bearing Shakespeare's signature; the first, second, and fourth folios of Shakespeare's plays; a manuscript register of the City churches, with exquisite representations of monuments and coats-of-arms (in progress); a volume with the signatures and arms of the Lord Mayors; and a manuscript volume of French Chronicles, with beautiful illuminations.
The Newspaper and Directory Room, to the south of the main hall, is well stocked and much used. The East Lobby contains a collection of old clocks, watches, and chronometers belonging to the Clockmakers' Guild (including the Nelthropp collection). From this a staircase, with three figures from the old Guildhall Chapel (perhaps Edward VI., Charles I., and Queen Henrietta Maria; original position shown by an engraving hung on the wall), descends to the Basinghall St. entrance.