The National Library of France

The oldest National Library of France, at the heart of the 2nd arrondissement of Paris.

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At the Hôtel Mansart we invite you to explore the collections of the oldest site of the National Library of France, at the heart of the 2nd arrondissement of Paris. The Richelieu quadrilateral is an historic site where visitors can discover the library and its specialised departments.

The royal collections at the National Library of France

The idea for a collection of books for the use of kings took shape under Charles V, in a dedicated room in the Louvre. Under Francis I, the principle of registration of copyright was created, obliging printers and booksellers to place a copy of every printed book in the royal library. The library became a symbol of Louis XIV's power with the vast policy of acquiring works undertaken by Colbert. The library was transferred to its present location in Rue Richelieu to benefit from more space. The collection was organised into departments and was opened to the public more and more.

During the French Revolution the registration of copyright was suspended, but the library's collections continued to expand with the confiscation of property by the revolutionaries. As a result of this massive arrival of documents, the library was extended thanks to work by the architect Henri Labrouste, who designed the reading room, a major architectural feat. In the 20th century, the Library continued to expand to different sites: the Arsenal Library and the Jean Vilar House in Paris and the technical conservations centre in  Bussy-Saint-Georges and in Sablé-sur-Sarthe in the provinces.

In 1988, during François Mitterrand's presidency, one of the biggest libraries in the world was built by the architect Dominique Perrault, in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.

The architecture and the collections

Near the Hôtel Mansart, the historic site of the National Library of France, also known as the "Richelieu quadrilateral", brings together different specialised departments: manuscripts, prints and photographs, maps, coins, medals and antiques, music and the performing arts.

The site contains a former private mansion dating from 1635, to which other buildings designed by the architect François Mansart, in particular, were added. The main courtyard is decorated with a pediment, The Sciences Served by Genius made by Degeorge. The site also hosts exhibitions, with the Mazarine Gallery for themed exhibitions, the Mansart Gallery devoted to photography and finally the crypt for other exhibitions.

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