Legal Deposit: What to do

So you have published a paperback on Amazon or elsewhere. Well done! There is a legal requirement that you deposit at least one copy with the British Library. This is the famed Legal Deposit you have probably heard of. Here is what to do and what to expect.

You will also probably have submit another five copies to other main libraries in the UK and Ireland. You can do this unprompted within one month of publication or wait until they request the five extra copies.

The libraries that can demand copies of your book are as follows:


  • The British Library, London (mandatory – must send)
  • National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford
  • Cambridge University Library
  • Trinity College, Dublin
  • National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

I believe it is unusual for there to be less than five extra requested copies. The request comes from the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries who handle all requests. You do not get individual requests from each library.

Legal Deposit – The British Library

So the most important and immediate action you must take on publication is to send the single copy (unprompted) to the British Library at this address. This must be done within one month of publication.

Legal Deposit Office
The British Library
Boston Spa
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BY

Legal Deposit – The Other Five

You can also send (unprompted) five copies to the The Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries. If you do not send them unprompted they can (and probably will) claim their copies with one year of publication. You will be contacted at your contact address by The Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries. In that case you have one month to send the copies in from receipt of their notice.

I have only published (so far) non-fiction in paperback and hardback. These libraries have always claimed their copies through the agency. Whether they require the five extra copies when the book is fiction is unknown by me.

I believe that most publishers simply send the five copies of the book up-front and unprompted to the agency. While I have never done this so far, I’ll probably do so in the future with non-fiction books.

Send your five books to this address:

Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries
Unit 21 Marnin Way
EH12 9GD

Legal Deposit – ISBN or No ISBN

Be aware that if the book changes ISBN then you need to re-issue the amended book to the libraries. I have had to do this where initially I published a non-fiction book as a hard cover then I published exactly the same book as a paperback (obviously with a different ISBN). I had to send the paperback version in as well as the hardback as if they were two totally different books.

Also note that even if you are selling your book without an ISBN number it STILL has to be deposited with the British Library and (potentially) the other five libraries just like a book with an ISBN.

After you have sent the copy or copies do not expect an immediate response. If I remember rightly, it took 3 months before I received an acknowledgement of receipt of my books. But you will get a receipt through the post – eventually.

The Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries is friendly and quite responsive to emails. Which is a pleasant surprise. Unlike some in the publishing world they seem to be nice people to deal with!

The web address for the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries is HERE

The webpage for legal deposit at the British Library is HERE

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