Print collection 

There are 15,000 books in our collection on the first floor. These are located next to the Southward Reading Room so find your favourite and make yourself comfortable! This collection includes marine natural history, exploration, climate change, analytical techniques and ID guides. Easy to follow shelf ends and a computer to browse the collection makes it easy to find what you are looking for. If we do not have it, we welcome book suggestions for complementary additions to our stock or alternatively we can request items as an Inter-Library Loan.

Rare Book Collection

The NMBL also holds a unique collection of rare books including first editions and signed copies dating back to 1714. These are housed in a climate-monitored area above the Reading Room and are available to be viewed only with a member of library staff. A complete listing can all be found on our online catalogue.

Personal Libraries

We have a number of personal collections belonging to early prominent marine scientists at the MBA including E. T. Browne, Marie Lebour, George Parker Bidder, John Young and Ray Lankester.

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. These are available to be viewed only with a member of library staff.

Search the Catalogue 

Use our online catalogue to find the books you are looking for.

Print journals

We have over 4,500 print journal titles, including complete original runs of Nature from 1869, housed across all three floors of the library. Our own classification system can be difficult to navigate but expert staff are always on hand to help you find what you need. 

Please note that we also have some material stored offsite therefore some items may not be available immediately (the online catalogue will indicate if this is the case). If you believe this is the case, please contact the library prior to your visit so we can ensure everything you require is accessible for your visit.

Electronic journals

Members have onsite access to thousands of the library's e-journal titles. Please check with a librarian for your access permissions as a MBA member or member of staff (staff can access remotely by following these log in instructions). A complete list of electronic titles that we subscribe to can be found here, or use the search bar opposite.

If you cannot find what you are looking for, we can request specific papers through Inter-Library Loan. Please note there is an additional charge for this service for members. 

Print Journals

Use our library catalogue to find print journal holdings.

Electronic Journals

Browse and access electronic journals.

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.

For any enquiries, please contact

Please click on any of the names below to discover what archives are available.

Did you know‽

Material in the archive contributed the MBA becoming Guinness World Record holders for the oldest message in a bottle!

Reproductions and Permissions

A 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. The collection is managed by Gerald Boalch. If you would like to learn more about the contents please take a look at the information below or if you require a tour on your visit, please contact us.

National Collections 

Take a look at some of the other national herbariums.

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 and is on display in the library as well as the MBA Common Room.

Thanks to all our volunteers who have worked hard to clean, restore, repair and display these objects. Future exhibitions are currently being developed. If you have any information on the objects listed below (only a part of the collection), or would like to know more, please get in touch at

Spirit Preserved Marine Collection

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery's collection of wet preserved, or 'pickled', specimens originating from the Marine Biological Association (MBA)

Visit other historical marine collections

Using MBA images

Unless used under a copyright exception or licensed under a Creative Commons licence, anyone wishing to use an image owned by the MBA must submit a formal request and agree to the MBA’s terms of use. Users must also clear any copyright in the original material if this is necessary for publication or use.

The MBA will not usually charge for permission to publish images for use in not-for-profit publications. Fees for using MBA images in any format in for-profit publications or broadcasts will be negotiated based on how you want to use them. Please contact us for further information

Reproduction of material from the NMBL or MBA Archive Collection

The NMBL is able to provide reproductions of certain material from the NMBL and MBA Archive Collection under certain conditions. Please be aware that the NMBL does not necessarily hold the copyright on the items held in its collections and that responsibility lies with the researcher to obtain the appropriate permissions and conform to the laws of fair dealings, moral rights, copyright and intellectual property rights. The researcher is also responsible for the payment of any additional fees that may be demanded by the holder of the copyright for reproduction and/or use of material held at the NMBL. All reproductions of material from the NMBL and MBA Archive Collection are non-exclusive.

For personal use and research

When the NMBL can provide reproductions of material held in its collections, a request must be made by the researcher to NMBL staff by filing in a copyright declaration (form available on request). You will not be able to make further copies of the reproductions provided. Reproduction charges on request.

Please note that the NMBL will not provide digital copies for personal use.

For publication and commercial purposes

The NMBL can provide, under certain conditions, digital copies of material from the MBA Archive Collection to be used for publication and commercial purposes. Charges are available on request. For more information, please contact us:

Request permission for using MBA content

Information on British Copyright law