Bibliothèque nationale

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Bibliothèque nationale

(bēblēōtĕk` näsyônäl`), national library of France, in Paris, a government archive, and one of the foremost libraries of the world. It originated with the collections of writings made by early French kings, including Charlemagne. The collection of Charles V, placed in the tower of the old Louvre in the 14th cent., and a library belonging to the house of Orléans at Blois were brought together at Fontainebleu in the 16th cent. under Francis I. The collection was later transferred to Paris by Charles IX, and was expanded greatly under the supervision of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (17th cent.). Since 1537 the library has been the legal depository for all books published in France. Its collection now includes more than 13 million books, more than half a million periodicals, and significant collections of manuscripts, posters, maps and plans, music and sound recordings, medals and coins, and photographs and videos. The library was housed in a building erected (1854–75) in the Rue de Richelieu under the direction of Henri Labrouste; it was remodeled (1932–39), and a 20th-century addition was built. A controversial new library complex in SE Paris, commissioned by President François Mitterrand and designed by Dominique Perrault, opened in 1998. The old building now houses such state collections as manuscripts, maps, and music. There are library annexes at Versailles, Provins, Sable, and Avignon.


See M.-H. Tesnière and P. Gifford. ed., Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (1996).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bibliothéque Nationale


one of the world’s oldest and largest libraries; located in Paris. Established in 1480 as the Royal Library, it was renamed the Bibliothéque Nationale in 1795 by the Convention. In 1972 the library’s holdings included 7 million volumes, 155, 000 manuscripts, 6 million engravings and prints, 500, 000 periodicals, 800, 000 maps, and 450, 000 medals and coins. The library has received a deposit copy of every book published in France since 1537, with the exception of an interval from the late 18th century until 1810. Foreign publications consist for the most part of general works in all branches of knowledge and more specialized works in literature, history, and art.

The Bibliothéque Nationale comprises a department of printed publications with a rare books section; a department of new acquisitions; a periodicals department with a branch at Versailles (where seldom-requested material is also stored); a cartographic department; an engraving and print department, the oldest in the world; a manuscript department; a music department; a numismatics department; the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal; administrative and technical departments for restoration and photocopying; an international book exchange; and a central circulation department.

The library may be used by persons with a higher education or those presenting a written request from the head of a scientific institution. V. I. Lenin worked there in 1909.

Since 1897 the library has published the Catalogue général des livres imprimés de la Bibliothéque nationale: Auteurs, of which more than 200 volumes have been issued, and since 1960 the library has published the Catalogue général des livres imprimés: Auteurs, Collectivités auteurs, Anonymes, which appears in cumulative issues. The library is the center for national bibliographical information and participates in the publication of the Bibliographie de la France and Répertoire de la presse et des publications périodiques françaises. The Bibliothéque Nationale, together with the Sorbonne Library, maintains a union catalogue of the French and foreign periodicals available at 45 of the largest university libraries in France.


Natsional’nye biblioteki mira: Spravochnik. Moscow, 1972. Pages 247–51.
Dennri, E. “Natsional’naia biblioteka v Parizhe.” Bibliotekovedenie i bibliografiia za rubezhom, 1972, issue 40, pp. 3–14.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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