Bibliothèque nationale de France

National Library of France

The National Library of France (BnF) is the heir to the royal collections which had been assembled since the end of the Middle Ages. The first institution in France to be made responsible for administering legal deposit from 1537 on, it is the largest library in France and one of the major libraries in the world.

The library's collections amount to a total of 14 million books, which grow by about 150,000 volumes each year, mainly through acquisitions and legal deposit. Besides printed books, its collections include several million manuscripts, maps, prints and engravings, photos, musical scores, coins, medals, recordings, videos and multimedia documents, objects, objets d'art, theatrical sets and costumes. These collections are spread between 14 departments for specialised or thematic collections and are made available to the public (mainly composed of researchers) in reading rooms at the François-Mitterand site in the 13th district of Paris and at the historic Richelieu site (17th century) in Paris's 2nd district.

Gallica, the BnF's digital library, offers reproductions of more than 1 million documents in text, image or recorded formats for consultation.

The BnF's mission is to collect, archive and preserve books, as well as see to research and the diffusion of its collections, most notably through exhibitions organised for the general public, either on its premises or online.

The collections preserved at the Department of Manuscripts, located at the Richelieu site, are encyclopaedic: “chansons de geste” (epic poems), Arthurian novels, romance languages, oriental literature, religions of East and West, ancient history, history of science, literary manuscripts, including those of Pascal, Diderot, Apollinaire, Proust, Colette, Sartre, etc. The “cabinet des titres” (cabinet of titles) along with the armorials are the main resources in genealogy research.

The library's collections are organised into holdings and special collections

  • based on language: Greek, Latin, French and other European languages, Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopian, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, languages of the Near and Middle East, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, languages of India, Vietnamese, etc.
  • or according to their content: Scholars and Bibliophiles, Scholars' Collections, Library Archives, Genealogical Collections, French Provinces, Masonic Holdings, etc.

The manuscript collections include a large number of ancient copies, unica, scientific texts, decorated and painted manuscripts as well as manuscripts in varying shapes and fabricated from a variety of support materials (woodcuts, prints…).

Today, the department is particularly concerned with collecting, classifying and making available to the public the personal archives of French writers.

In collaboration with other institutions, several projects to digitise manuscripts have begun: Optima (Flaubert's, Proust's and Valery's manuscripts) with ITEM (Institute of Modern Texts and Manuscripts) and supported by the National Research Agency, the French manuscripts of the Roman de la Rose in conjunction with the Mellon Foundation, etc.

Bibliothèque nationale de France

Bibliothèque nationale de France

Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France MSS Latin 9380 - f. 3v.
Biblia [Bible dite de Théodulfe]
Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France MSS Latin 9380
Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France MSS Latin 2231 (1) - f. 1r.
Gregorius papa: Moralia in Job (Vol. 1: lib. I-IX)
Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France MSS Latin 2231 (1)
Paris BNF - Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal Ms. 5080 - f. 1r.
Vincent de Beauvais: Miroir historial (Book IX-XVI), French translation by Jean de Vignay
Paris BNF - Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal Ms. 5080