ABC of the collections
Quarterly selection of patrimonial documents
© David Carr / BnF
The collections held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France are part of the national patrimony and now include nearly 31 million documents of all descriptions. They have many facets.
Through basic concepts illustrated by keywords, the ABC of the collections allows you to discover a variety of precious, rare and unusual documents selected from the wealth of collections. Documents on display are renewed every three months.
A for ActualityEvery day new documents are added to the Bibliothèque nationale de France's collections. They are received by through legal deposit... but also through acquisitions, donations, dations, bequests and exchanges. Through these methods, books, newspapers, maps and prints increase the patrimonial collections, along with manuscripts, the archives of contemporary personalities, photographs, posters, coins, medals, images, music scores, sound recordings, multimedia materials, software and other materials.
C for CuriosityFascinating and little known documents in a variety of media and read in a variety of ways are stored in the departments dedicated to the collections. In fact, the term "library" brings many surprises for visitors, who are not always aware of the diversity and extent of the Bibliothèque nationale de France's resources. These documents, which are unusual in their format, presentation, subject matter or other unexpected characteristics, offer researchers an almost inexhaustible supply of original resources.
D for DonationsThe BnF’s collections are becoming richer from day to day. This is achieved through legal deposit but also thanks to acquisitions, donations, bequests or exchanges. Heritage collections gather some books, newspapers, maps, prints, photographs, posters, coins, medals, music scores, sound and multimedia recordings, softwares, as well as manuscripts and archives from key contemporary figures.
E for EncyclopedicThe Royal Library's collections were open to all areas of knowledge. The legal deposit created in 1537 and its most recent changes mean that the whole of French editorial production is covered. Royal librarians, collectors and scholars worked over the centuries to enhance the Library's collections with countless documents on the themes of history, art, literature and religion. The Library's encyclopedic vocation was reasserted in the 90's. A reasoned policy is being followed to expand the collections in all media, including virtual.
F for FragileIn everyday life, many documents soon disappear once they are no longer in use. However, they reflect the way of life of each era. Their fragility often makes them rare documents. The Library is dedicated to the collection and preservation of short-lived publications, images and minor documents from daily life, which are often widely distributed but under threat because they are conserved poorly or not at all. Documents are added to these types of collections through legal deposit. Many special collections are also compiled by collectors.
H for History
Extremely ancient works are conserved at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, such as the "Prisse" Papyrus, which is the oldest known Egyptian book, written in 1900 BC.
The French patrimonial collections have been inherited from the "library" of the Kings of France. They have come to us over six centuries from the 15th 15th century to the present day. Both the oldest and the most recent collections have been carefully preserved for current and future generations. Their expanding, inventorying and conservation are a constant source of activity.
M for MultimediaAlthough originally a Royal collection of manuscripts and antiques, the Bibliothèque nationale de France now includes documents of all descriptions, on all media: texts, images, sound recordings, objects and virtual documents, written, distributed and produced in France and other countries. The national collections have always been expanded while adapting them to the latest technological advances in the circulation of ideas: writing, printing, photography, sound recordings, animated images, electronic documents and soon internet sites.
N for NumerousThe sheer quantity of the documents received, recorded, conserved and available to readers at the Bibliothèque nationale de France is impressive. Their number explains the Library's historical need for expansion in terms of storage space and space to accomodate the public. It now boasts 31 million documents, including books, newspapers, manuscripts, images, music, coins and audiovisual materials. Each year their number is increased by around 120,000 works, more than 1.3 million newspaper issues and periodical publications and almost 30,000 audiovisual documents. Each document must be identifiable, accessible and impeccably conserved for future generations.
O for OrderThe Bibliothèque nationale de France's collections are arranged, organized and inventoried for identification and then later use. As the depository of France's editorial archives, the Library provides access to these through its Catalogue, the inventories of its collections and other search tools. It is responsible for the Bibliographie nationale française (the French national bibliography). The old registers and files have been replaced by computer databases, which can be queried remotely. The call number of a document depends on its physical location in the Library's reading rooms or stacks.
P for PatrimonyThe Bibliothèque nationale de France is THE French patrimonial library. Its collections: royal, imperial and then national, reflect the country's history and development, its cultural memory, its temperament and its tastes. The legal deposit system, which is constantly developing, and other methods of increasing the patrimony: acquisitions, donations and exchanges, are aimed at ensuring the exhaustive collection of works. The collections are also enhanced by National Treasures, whose removal out of the country is not permitted by the French State. The Library may also exercise a right of preemption at public sales.
R for Reference documentsSome texts, documents and objects mark their era and play an influential role in the way we see the world today. Key texts, fundamental writings and accounts of scientific and cultural discoveries and advances all shed light on the history of civilizations, ideas, media and mentalities. The Bibliothèque nationale de France has an abundance of these major documents, which sometimes can't be found anywhere else. It also houses documents from the same era and the comments and testimonials that accompany the works, which are fertile hunting grounds for research and help to put them into perspective.
T for TreasuresThe Library conserves particularly precious documents on all media. Their history is always unusual: whether sent with care or found by chance, previously undistributed or recently acquired, deposited or contributed by a collector. Some items are extremely rare: first editions, sole known testimonials and exceptional, and sometimes unique, copies of illustrious origin.
U for UniversalThe Library's collections come from every all continents and illustrate the diversity of the world's cultures. Many documents have come from travelers, diplomats and researchers. The range of languages, countries, writings and materials is extremely vast. The collections allow you to tour the world, from Mexico to Japan, from the Middle East to Russia, from South America to India and to the most distant islands and most exotic lands.