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BNF - Bibliotheque Nationale de France

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BNF in Paris

The Bibliotheque Nationale de France, called BNF, is the French national library. It has three buildings in Paris. The BNF Francois Mitterand is the largest contemporary monument on the banks of the Seine river. The BNF Richelieu is the historic BNF site and is also worth visiting. Gallica provides online access to over four million documents. Top Paris monuments.

BNF Francois Mitterand

In 1988, Francois Mitterand, then President of France, commissioned the construction on the Seine river banks of a new building for the Bibliotheque nationale de France, then confined to the historic Richelieu building. The library was designed by Architect Dominique Perrault, as a cloister garden surrounded by four towers. The library was inaugurated in 1996. THE BNF Francois Mitterand can be visited every day except Mondays at 3pm. Information

Avenue de France
Paris 75013 France

The BNF Francois Mitterand is open Tuesday to Sunday. 10am to 6pm (Sundays 1pm to 6pm). Closed on public holidays: 1 January, Easter Sunday and Monday, 1 and 8 May, Ascension Thursday, Pentecost Sunday and Monday, 14 July, 15 August, 1 and 11 November, 25 December. Annual closure early September. Locate BNF on Paris map. Paris metro: Bibliotheque Francois Mitterand on line 14.

The garden of BNF Francois Mitterand
The garden of BNF Francois Mitterand

Bibliotheque Nationale facts

The Bibliotheque Nationale de France preserves the French national documentary heritage. Its collections include 15 million books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, videos. All disciplines are comprehensively represented. Around 150 000 documents are added each year thanks to legal deposit, acquisitions and donations. The BnF’s digital library, Gallica, provides access to four millions documents.

The François-Mitterrand Library is the main site of BNF. It has two levels: the Research Library (Rez-de-Jardin), open to accredited readers, and the Reference Library (Haut-de-Jardin), open to anyone 16 years of age and over.

The reading rooms of the Reference Library provide free access to reference collections in all fields of knowledge: printed books and magazines, audiovisual documents, periodicals, digital books or data bases. The Reference Library is open to anyone 16 years of age and over, after the purchase of a reader’s pass.

French National Library in Paris
French National Library in Paris

BNF history

During the reign of King Charles the 5th (1364-1380), a special room was fit in the Louvre to house 917 books. From then on, the Kings of France gathered books in their own library. In 1537, King François 1st introduces the deposit of any printed book for sale in the kingdom in the library of the Blois Castle. The Library grew quickly from 1666 under the direction of Colbert, the minister of Louis the 14th. The library is then set up in the Richelieu historical building near the Louvre. The library becomes the biggest in Europe. The Abbe Bignon, appointed librarian in 1719, greatly improved the reputation of the library, organized in departments. All works by European scholars should be part of the library. The French Revolution had a strong effect on the library as the collections of the Royal Library, now the National Library, were considerably enriched through confiscations in France and abroad. In 1858, Napoleon the 3rd entrusts architect Henri Labrouste with the reconstruction of part of the Richelieu buildings, including the construction of the Labrouste room for which cast iron was widely used.

Labrouste reading room in BNF Richelieu
Labrouste reading room in BNF Richelieu
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