The British and Foreign Bible Society (now "Bible Society") was founded in 1804 with the aim of supplying Bibles and New Testaments - Scriptures - without note or comment, on a world-wide basis, in a language people could understand and at a price they could afford. To achieve this it was soon realised that a collection of standard texts would be essential for reference, and a library was established. In its first year there were some 67 languages into which at least one book of the Bible had been translated; now around 200 years later there are over 2000, and translation work continues.
The library has grown from its initial 39 to over 39,000 volumes. After 181 years in London, the Society moved to its present headquarters in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1985. Early in the planning of this move it became apparent that the new site would not be the most appropriate for the Society's unique Library and Archives, and an agreement was reached with the University Library that the collections would be housed here and made available to bona fide users.