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Arsenal Library

Originally an encyclopedic library, the Arsenal Library now has a predilection for 16th to 19th century French literature and book history.
Collections on the following topics are available for consultation at the Arsenal Library (Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal):
P. Louÿs, Les Chansons de Bilitis, 1895 ; reliure de Lortic, d´après des maquettes de Giraldon

P. Louÿs, Les Chansons de Bilitis, 1895 ; reliure de Lortic, d'après des maquettes de Giraldon

Its collections include the following:

  • an old printed books collection (pre-1880) divided into Belles Lettres, History, Theology, Case Law, and Science and Arts
  • a modern printed books collection (post-1880): novels, poetry, illustrated books, precious bindings, etc. 
  • manuscripts:12,000 historical and literary manuscripts from the Middle Ages to contemporary times 
  • a collection of prints: 100,000 prints (portraits, caricatures from the Revolution and the Restoration, city plans and views, important series from the 18th century Italian, German, and English schools, etc.) 
  • handwritten and printed music scores, mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries 
  • a large collection of old reviews, and more than 250 current reviews

Archives of Georges Perec and the Oulipo

Two deposited collections, the archives of Georges Perec and of the Oulipo, may be consulted by appointment  :
  • Archives of Georges Perec (
  • Archives of the Oulipo (

Specific collections :

History of the Arsenal Library

The Arsenal’s collections trace their origins back to the library of Antoine René d’Argenson, Marquis of Paulmy, located in the residence of the Masters of Artillery, in the heart of the former Arsenal de Paris.

Keen to avoid its being broken up, Paulmy sold the library in 1785 to the Count of Artois, Louis XVI’s brother, but retained the right of usufruct and continued to add to it.

Sequestered during the revolution as property belonging to an émigré, the collection remained at the site. As a result of revolutionary confiscations, it was expanded via the addition of many volumes from the main Parisian abbeys and the archives of the Bastille.

Throughout the 19th century, the library’s collections increasingly focused on literature and theater, in particular at the instigation of renowned administrators such as Charles Nodier and José-Maria de Heredia.

Incorporated into the réunion des bibliothèques nationales in 1926, the Arsenal Library was attached to the National Library in 1934 and remains faithful to its literary and bibliophilic tradition, as demonstrated both through its acquisitions and through the literary exhibitions and soirées it organizes.


  • Martin (H.), Catalogue des manuscrits de la bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris, 1899, Volume 8, Histoire de la bibliothèque.
  • Funck-Brentano (F.) and Deslandres (P.), La Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris, 1930. 
  • Calot (F.), La Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris, 1936. 
  • Trésors de la bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, 1980. 
  • Arts et métiers du livre, no. 206, November/December 1997. 
  • Bulletin du bibliophile, Paris, 2000, no. 2.

Friday, November 14, 2014

See also


The "Plaisirs de l'Arsenal" performance-lecture series, about the Arsenal as a place of amusement in the 17th and 18th century.


Bruno Blasselle
Secretary: 01 53 79 39 39
Fax : 01 53 79 39 03
Email :