Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België – Bibliothèque royale de Belgique
Royal Library of Belgium (KBR)
Founded by the young Belgian state in 1837, the Royal Library was opened to the public in 1839. Its history really started, however, with a collection of 900 manuscripts assembled in the 15th century by the dukes of Burgundy, who during that period ruled the Low Countries.
The Royal Library of Belgium comprises several historical libraries, including those of the Burgundian dukes (enlarged in the 16th century by the Spanish King Philip II), the religious orders abolished in the late 18th century, private collectors like Charles Van Hulthem (1764-1832), and the collection of the city of Brussels.
As the former palace of Charles of Lorraine, in which the Burgundian library had been installed since the end of the 18th century, had become unsuitable - mainly because of a lack of space - it had been decided, even before the Second World War, to construct new buildings. This was carried out on the Mont des Arts. The new library, dedicated to the memory of King Albert I, was inaugurated in 1969.
Since 1966, the library has administered the Belgian legal deposit system and national bibliography. Playing the role of a general conservatory of the national heritage, it presently holds some 5 million printed books, 39,000 manuscripts (including circa 270 codices of the Burgundian library), 200,000 maps, 700,000 prints, 10,000 drawings and 120,000 coins and medals. As the central scientific library, it is its task to acquire, to catalogue and to provide for consultation, scientific information, especially in the field of humanities, and to direct the researcher towards the most complete and recent scientific documentation.
Within the scope of Europeana Regia, the Royal Library of Belgium will digitise 30 Carolingian manuscripts and 9 codices from the library of the French King Charles V, which will also be included in Belgica, the virtual library of the institution, launched in 2009.