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. Destructed, replaced…? I took this picture during a previous visit.