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The French National Library collects, preserves and makes known the national documentary heritage.
Its collection is unique with 14 million books and printed documents, manuscripts, prints, photographs, maps and plans, scores, coins, medals, sound documents, video and multimedia documents... Numerous cultural events like exhibitions highlight and make known the library’s outstanding collections.
The National Library of France traces its origin to the royal library founded at the Louvre Palace by Charles V in 1368. The library grew rapidly during the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, due in great part to the interest of the Minister of Finance, Colbert, an indefatigable collectors of books. The quarters in the Rue de la Harpe becoming inadequate, the library was again moved, in 1666, to a more spacious house in Rue Vivienne which still stand there today.
The library's collections swelled to over 300,000 volumes during the radical phase of the French Revolution when the private libraries of aristocrats and clergy were seized. After the establishment of the French First Republic in September 1792, "the Assembly declared the Bibliotheque du Roi to be national property and the institution was renamed the Bibliothèque Nationale. After four centuries of control by the Crown, this great library now became the property of the French people."
An new administrative organization was established. Napoleon took great interest in the library and among other things issued an order that all books in provincial libraries not possessed by the Bibliothèque Nationale should be forwarded to it, subject to replacement by exchanges of equal value from the duplicate collections, making it possible, as Napoleon said, to find a copy of any book in France in the National Library. Napoleon furthermore increased the collections by spoil from his conquests. A considerable number of these books was restored after his downfall.
Today the Richelieu site presents several temporary exhibitions through the year.