What we are

The Lit & Phil is Newcastle’s exquisite independent library, open to all and free to explore and browse.  Founded in 1793, its purpose-built  library  opened  in 1825 on Westgate Road, and is just yards from Central Station.  It  became a hub of learning and enlightenment long before the city’s universities existed and today continues to inspire minds, stimulate imaginations and confer a wealth of knowledge to young and old alike.

Image of Andrew Graham Dixon courtesy of www.christopherjamesowens.com

What we offer

We have a collection of more than 170,000 books (from 16th century tomes to modern fiction), the largest music collection in the North of England and a dazzling events programme packed with jazz, folk and classical music, celebrity author evenings, theatre and storytelling, poetry reading and classes covering everything from bookbinding to Latin, fine art to creative writing.

We are a sanctuary for book lovers, an oasis for musicians and a realm of magic and mystery for children and the young-at-heart.

Come in and be amazed….

Who we are for

The Lit & Phil is for everyone, we have no entry fee and anyone may come and explore our curiosities, browse our books and discover our charms. We welcome the curious, the knowledge-seeking, the lovers of antiquity or anyone who just wants to escape the world and lose themselves in a good book or some beautiful music.

Come up the stairs and you’ll find welcoming and knowledgeable staff ready to answer your questions or show you around…

Our illustrious past

Before The Lit & Phil officially opened its handsome neoclassical home in 1825, the Society had been meeting since 1793 in various locations around Newcastle. Initially a place where people would meet to discuss and debate the matters of the day, the collection of books grew and artefacts and curiosities gathered. By the early 19th century it had become a home for inventors, pioneers and visionaries and a focal point for the industrial revolution. George Stephenson demonstrated his ‘miners safety lamp’ to the Society in 1815 before it went global and Joseph Swan lit a public room with electric light for the first time here in 1881.

Over the years the Lit & Phil has welcomed many great literary figures including Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster and Gertrude Bell. Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant was a school boy member and recent visitors and patrons include Melvyn Bragg, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, David Almond, Alexander McCall Smith, Derek Jacobi and Michael Palin.

Gems from the collections

When the Lit & Phil was established in 1793 a library was not at the forefront of the minds of its founders. The emphasis was on lectures, discussion and experiments. Before long however, a general library was created, although at its inception many of the works were scientific in nature, reflecting the main objects of the Society.

The library’s broad nature is its strength and the Society can be proud of its historic as well as its contemporary collections – from the several hundred volumes printed before 1701 to newly published crime fiction, the library has something for everyone.

When in 1825 the Lit & Phil moved into its present home, the collection numbered some 8,000 volumes. It now contains close to 200,000, with approximately 1,000 volumes being added each year.

Along the way the society has collected some rather interesting, strange and even bizarre books and other printed items. Here are just a very few of them…(for more click on this link).