The Manuscripts department has its origins in the Royal Library. It houses the greatest collection worldwide of medieval, modern and contemporary manuscripts. It also includes numerous old copies, unica, scientific texts, ornamented and painted manuscripts. These encyclopaedic collections - chansons de geste, Eastern and Western religions, modern and contemporary history, literary manuscripts... - were enriched thanks to donations from authors, politicians or academics, sponsorship or acquisitions.
The collections of original manuscripts are complemented by books and magazines in foreign languages, microforms and fac-similes. The reading room is open to the readers of the Research Library. Certain manuscripts are available on special authorization.
For manuscripts and archives collections:
The BnF archives et manuscrits catalog offers for each collection an historical introduction and a bibliography of corresponding inventories and catalogues.
For printed documents housed in the department, fac-similes and the Rothschild collection:
Some collections are not yet listed in the computerized catalogs. Collections in the process of being classified, though not catalogued, can be available to readers. For certain collections, readers have only paper inventories at their disposal. They are available in the reading room.
Some of the printed catalogs were digitized and are available online.