National Library of France
The Arsenal Library was confiscated during the Revolution and became a Public Library in 1797. It was joined to the Bibliothèque nationale in 1934.
Today, the Arsenal Library is specialized in the French literature from the 16th to the 19th century and in the history of books. It is also a reference library in terms of specific historic collections such as the Mazarinades or the Bastille archives.
about the history of both the library and the collections housed at the Arsenal Library
Detail of the décor in the Cabinet of strong women (Cabinet des femmes fortes). La Meilleraye apartments. Charles Poerson (1609-1667)
The first building of the Arsenal was erected on a place that belonged to the Célestins convent. It is now occupied by the barracks of the Republican Guard. It leant against the Charles the 5th city walls running along a branch of the Seine river. That is why the building has an oblong shape.
Today, the façade erected in the 17th century and looking onto the rue de Sully is the only trace of the first constructions; but it was rebuilt by Théodore Labrouste in the 19th century. In the building, the La Meilleraye cabinet, an outstanding apartment painted towards 1640, bears witness to the period when the Master-general of the Ordnance lived there. This major figure was at the head of Paris Arsenal, a huge set of buildings extending as far as the Bastille.
In the 18th century, a new building was constructed by architect Boffrand on the side of the Seine river. As it was better preserved, the ornaments on the upper part of the building and the precious inner panellings are the original ones.
During the Revolution, the building is transformed in a public library; and in the 19th century, it is fit out with reading rooms and bookstores. Two wings are erected on the East and West sides, including the current façade looking onto the large platform located place Teilhard de Chardin. The branch of the Seine river is filled in 1843: it is the current boulevard Morland.
In the 20th century, several modifications were made in the building and more recently (2010-2012), the façade and the roof were entirely restored.
Click on images for a larger view
Restoration of the Salon de Musique
Detail of the décor in the Salon de Musique, Arsenal Library
© David Paul Carr / BnF
The Arsenal’s most magnificent living room, the Salon de Musique, was restored in 2009 following the initiative and with the financial support of the World Monuments Fund.
Located at the first floor of the mansion designed by architect Germain Boffrand for the Duke of Maine, this living room has preserved a set of panellings of an outstanding quality. It owes its name to the musical attributes decorating the upper part of the room. One can also observe four piers in grisaille illustrating the seasons and reproducing the bas-reliefs of the Grenelle fountain in Paris.
Dossier de presse [fichier .pdf – 1901 Ko – 02/10/08 – 8 p.]
Portrait of Charles Nodier, in the style of Charles Franque. Copy by Tony Robert-Fleury
In 2012, the Ministry of Culture and Communication granted the Arsenal Library with the label Maisons des Illustres.
This label designates 171 places that preserve and pass on the memory of the political, religious, industrial, scientific or artistic figures who lived in.
It is in the living rooms of the Arsenal Library, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, that Madame de Genlis and Charles Nodier organized their literary evenings.
Friday, November 14, 2014