France National Library: Discover the Bibliothèque nationale de France

The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) is the France National Library. Founded in 1368, it is one of the largest libraries in the world, with a collection of over 40 million books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, prints, and sound recordings. The France National Library is an essential resource for researchers, students, and anyone interested in French history and culture. In this article, we will take a closer look at the France National Library, its history, collections, services, and some frequently asked questions.

History of France National Library

The Bibliothèque nationale de France has a long and rich history that spans over six centuries. It was originally founded in 1368 by King Charles V, who donated his personal collection of manuscripts to the city of Paris. Over the centuries, the library grew in size and importance, thanks to donations, acquisitions, and legal deposit laws.

In 1666, King Louis XIV established the Royal Library of France, which became the official library of the French monarchy. The library continued to expand its collections, and in 1792, it was renamed the Bibliothèque nationale. During the French Revolution, the library received many confiscated books and manuscripts, including those from religious institutions.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bibliothèque nationale continued to grow and modernize. It moved to its current location in the 13th arrondissement of Paris in 1996, where it occupies a modern building designed by the architect Dominique Perrault.

Collections of France National Library

The Bibliothèque nationale de France has an extensive collection of documents covering a wide range of subjects and periods. Here are some of the main collections:


The library has over 15 million manuscripts, including medieval and modern illuminated manuscripts, papyri, and autographs. The manuscripts cover a wide range of subjects, such as history, literature, science, and philosophy.

Printed materials

The library has over 10 million printed books and journals, including rare and valuable editions. The collection covers all disciplines, from humanities to social sciences and sciences.

Maps and plans

The library has a large collection of maps and plans, including historical and modern maps, atlases, and globes. The collection covers all regions of the world, with a particular emphasis on France and Europe.


The library has a rich collection of music manuscripts and printed scores, including works by famous composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Debussy. The collection also includes recordings of classical music, jazz, and popular music.


The library has a collection of over 2 million photographs, covering the history of photography from its invention to the present day. The collection includes works by famous photographers such as Nadar, Cartier-Bresson, and Doisneau.

Services of France National Library

The Bibliothèque nationale de France offers a wide range of services to its users, both on-site and online. Here are some of the main services:

Reading rooms

The library has several reading rooms where users can consult the collections, including the Manuscripts Reading Room, the Printed Books Reading Room, and the Maps and Plans Reading Room.

Digital Library

The library has a Digital Library that provides access to over 3 million digitized documents, including manuscripts, printed books, maps, photographs, and sound recordings. The Digital Library is accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.

Exhibitions and events

The library organizes regular exhibitions and events, showcasing its collections and promoting French culture and history. These events are open to the public and often include guided tours, lectures, and workshops.

Research and education

The library is a research institution that supports academic research and education. It offers access to specialized databases, research tools, and expert assistance to researchers, students, and scholars.

Legal deposit

The Bibliothèque nationale de France is responsible for collecting and preserving all French publications, whether in print or digital form. This legal deposit obligation ensures that the library has a comprehensive collection of French publications for future generations.


  • Who can use the Bibliothèque nationale de France?

Anyone can use the library, but some services require a library card or a reservation.

  • How can I get a library card?

To get a library card, you need to apply in person at the library with a valid ID and proof of address.

  • Can I borrow books from the Bibliothèque nationale de France?

No, books cannot be borrowed from the library, but they can be consulted on site.

  • How can I access the Digital Library?

The Digital Library is accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Some documents may require a library card or a subscription.

  • Can I take photos or make photocopies of the documents?

In general, photography and photocopying are not allowed, but exceptions can be made for some documents under certain conditions.


The Bibliothèque nationale de France is a treasure trove of French culture and history, offering a vast collection of documents and services to its users. Whether you are a researcher, a student, or simply curious, the library has something for everyone. So why not pay a visit and discover the rich heritage of the Bibliothèque nationale de France?


  • Bibliothèque nationale de France official website:
  • “The Bibliothèque nationale de France: A library for the 21st century” by Bruno Racine (2011)
  • “The French National Library” by Laurence Engel and Jean-François Colas (2012)

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