New British Library newspaper archive

As part of its initial work in digitising its huge collection of historic newspapers, the British Library received two tranches of funding from JISC to digitise 3m pages from its Colindale repository.

As part of a three-way project involving the BL, JISC and the publishers Gale-Cengage, these newspapers have been made available in two different ways. One interface is the interface, open to the general public, who can pay for access to the newspapers. The other interface allows for direct access via your university, public library or other institution

Since the JISC-funded projects ended, all universities and colleges in the UK have been able to sign up for free access and search the newspapers via this second interface.

More recently, the British Library has signed a contract with the firm brightsolid that commits the latter to digitising around 40m pages of the BL’s newspaper collection, and distributing them via different channels

Today marks the launch, by the British Library and brightsolid, of The British Newspaper Archive. At the moment, this includes some of the JISC funded content plus other newspapers digitised by brightsolid.

With time it will grow to include all the JISC content but also millions of pages digitised by brightsolid and also acquired from other newspapers that have microfilms of their contents

Access to the new site is currently via subscription (e.g., £79.95 per year) or micropayment

JISC will be in negotiation with the British Library about gaining access to the new content.

For all UK universities and colleges free access to the 3m pages funded under the JISC project remains via the Gale Cengage interface.

4 replies on “New British Library newspaper archive”

Why is there no mention of a subscription option for academic/ public etc libraries? I am also terribly disappointed, as having recently invested in purchasing the 19thc BL newspaper package from Cengage (no free access for public libraies) we are now offering what will quickly become a ‘second rate’ product.
Explaining this to our staff and customers is going to be pretty tricky. I hope you will consider posting a simple explanation as to why you have decided to take 2 separate approaches to the same content, so that we can refer people to it.

Hello Christel,

It’s not actually a JISC decision to create a second interface. That’s a separate contract between the BL and brighsolid, and while there is some overlap between the content, the new interface does include some new digitised papers

As mentioned in the blog post, JISC will be in discussion with the British Library about gaining access to the new content


You are asking your question of the wrong people. JISC – whose blog this is – did not ‘decide to take 2 approaches to the same content.’ They paid for one tranche of digitisation and the BL set up an agreement with Gale for exploitation of it outside HE/FE. It’s the BL who’ve then entered into a separate agreement with Brightsolid.

JISC funded a number of institutions to digitise stuff, but the content is then owned by the institutions. It is also up to them to sort out long-term sustainability of access. If some of them do so through complicated routes such as this one can’t blame JISC. I understand your disappointment, but the BL should be the target of your ire – or the companies who insist on competing in a way that disadvantages their customers.


this is a commercial project, so income generation is the priority for the British Library. It does get a bit confusing as 10 years ago there was lots of joint working on Newsplan to ensure that newspapers were made available, especially in local libraries and institutions, and there are still those who see these as a logical continuation. The world has moved on though and co-operation appears to be a luxury. I was at a meeting with librarians about the Newsplan project and when asked what provisions there would be for libraries we were told by the BL representative that this had not been included as they were only concerned about themselves and it was up to others to negotiate.

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