National Library

The “Bibliothèque nationale de France” (National Library of France) is the repository of all that is published in France. Its history is of course long, starting during the 14th century, but it was under Napoleon I that it was first stated that the National Library should have a copy of “all books”. During the 17th century the Library was installed in some existing mansions (“hôtels particuliers”) to which new important buildings were added during the latter part of the 19th century. The official address is Rue de Richelieu and the site is referred to as the “Richelieu” site. Since 1988, a large part of the Library’s activities have been transferred to a new site, “Bibliothèque François Mitterand” on the left bank. 

I already posted about the “Richelieu” site some six or seven years ago (see here) and then listed some of the remarkable things that are stored here. 

Some important renovation works have been going on since then. Last weekend the doors were opened allowing a visit of the renovated parts of the buildings.

As you can see, the Parisians were curious to see what had been done.

The most spectacular views are perhaps from the “Salle Labrouste”, so named after its architect. (See also top picture.) It was opened in 1868. Henri Labrouste is also known for the Sainte Geneviève Library (Sorbonne) which was opened in 1850 and on which I posted here.

A little glimpse of the central warehousing facilities.

Some space is devoted to the performing arts (“Arts du spectacle”). A few items are exhibited, including a portrait of a young Sarah Bernhardt, for which she herself made the frame.

This space is devoted to “manuscript reading”.

In what is referred to as the hall of honour we can find a version of the famous statute of Voltaire by Jean Antoine Houdon (1741-1828) – there are a number of them around. This one is referred to as the original plaster version… and in the base of the statue, Voltaire’s heart can – since 1924 - be found.

The renovation works continue in other parts of the buildings. This is the case with the large reading room, referred to as the “Salle Ovale”. (I included a photo from 2010.)

One item under discussion has been the future of the main staircase leading to the “museum part” of the Library. Destroyed, replaced…? I took this picture during a previous visit.   


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, impressive library! And the photos! Thank you so much for leading us to this place, Peter.

That statue of Voltaire is incredible. All we need is for it to get up and become animated at a moment's notice. It is easy to believe that in his lifetime, the sculptor, Jean-Antoine Houdon, moved in a large circle of admirers. And they were the members of France's intellectual vanguard.

Not to be outdone, the Americans residing in Paris at that time: Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Fulton and the poet Joel Barlow all had their marble busts modeled by Houdon.

Monumental commissions such as Voltaire's, Czar Alexander I's and George Washington's full scale statues became legendary.

In 1785, Thomas Jefferson convinced Houdon to travel to the United States. Would he please model a likeness of General Washington?
The sculptor and his three assistants arrived at Mount Vernon, stayed for two weeks, and then returned to France. Houdon brought back with him a plaster mask of Washington, to work with it for the marble bust and the statue of the hero.

Before he left, he presented the original terracotta bust of the General's likeness to his host as a gift. And Washington treasured it for the rest of his life.

Thanks again.

claude said...

Magnifique ! J'ai vu un reportage à la télé il y a quelques jours.
Quel beau patrimoine !

Lorraine S. said...

Beautiful as usual. Will put that on my itinerary when we're in the Palais Royal/Louvre area in 2017. Would you suggest a good season for travel to Paris. Well, ALL seasons are a good time, but we would appreciate your suggestion.

Studio at the Farm said...

How wonderful!!! Being an avid reader, you could really lock me in there and toss away the key :)