Rare artworks by Picasso and Turner are among £25m worth of artefacts that have passed into public hands.
The works, from private collections, have been accepted by the government as payment for inheritance tax.
The most valuable piece in the haul is Virgin and Child with Saints by Renaissance painter Palma Vecchio, thought to be worth about £2.5m.
Other artefacts included 10 sculptures by Cornish artist Barbara Hepworth and a violin made by Antonio Stradivari.
All of the pieces were handed over under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme (AIL) run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
Under AIL, private collectors can settle inheritance tax bills by handing over artworks instead of cash.
Mark Wood, chairman of the council, said many of the items acquired by public collections under the AIL scheme this year would otherwise have left the UK.
Mr Wood said of AIL: "Its significance and contribution to maintaining the world-class position of the UK's museums, archives and libraries can't be over-estimated."
The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester is the recipient of three Turner watercolours, including one of his much-vaunted Swiss paintings from 1845.
The Vecchio was among 10 paintings saved for the public for display at Penrhyn Castle near Bangor, north Wales.
Picasso's Weeping Woman - one of only 15 prints ever made of the work - will be housed in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
Other items saved last year included Yellow Twilight by British painter Samuel Palmer, Edward Lear's Jerusalem and a collection of Meissen porcelain.