The Bibliothèque Mazarine, the oldest public library in France

The Bibliothèque Mazarine is the oldest public library in France. And you can visit it!

The Bibliothèque Mazarine set in Paris 6th arrondissement is the oldest public library in France, and it’s really worth it.

Its construction is Cardinal Mazarin’s work who – at that time – asks librarian and literary man Gabriel Naudé to create a library at least as full as the one he already owns in Roma. Naudé travels through Europe to fill the library with new works until he reached 40,000 items in 1648. This library is then the most filled one in Europe.

During the Fronde in 1652, works stored in the library are scattered and sold. Luckily, Gabriel Naudé manages to save a part of the collections. In 1653, Naudé dies and his former collaborator François de la Poterie is asked by Mazarin to recreate a library. Something he’ll do easily, allowing the new library to find its former glory and the content of the first library in 1661.

La Bibliothèque Mazarine, la plus ancienne bibliothèque publique de FranceLa Bibliothèque Mazarine, la plus ancienne bibliothèque publique de FranceLa Bibliothèque Mazarine, la plus ancienne bibliothèque publique de FranceLa Bibliothèque Mazarine, la plus ancienne bibliothèque publique de France

This time, to prevent this new library from being scattered, Mazarin moves it and leaves it to the Collège des Quatre-Nations. In the late 18th century, it includes 60,000 works. During the French Revolution, the so-called Collège is suppressed but the Bibliothèque Mazarine remains open to the public and has been so since 1643.

Today, 600,000 works are available to students and searchers. And simple curious people can even take part in free guided tours, completed by a library curator. A good way to discover all the richness of the architecture and the décor of this majestic library: galleries adorned with woodworks from the 17th century, books from the floor to ceiling, statues, green lamps… what an atmosphere!

Manon C.
Last updated on 21 August 2018

Practical information

Location

23 Quai de Conti
75006 Paris 6

Prices
Free

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