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Coins, Medals and Antiques Department

A resource and study center devoted to numismatics, sigillography, and glyptics.
Collections in the following fields are available for consultation in the Coins, Medals and Antiques Department (département des Monnaies, médailles et antiques):

The department has:

  • 520,000 coins and medals;
  • 35,000 non-monetary objects (cameos, intaglios, Greek vases, antique and medieval ivories, bronzes, sculptures, inscriptions, etc.);
  • documentation on its collections (80,000 works covering not only numismatics, sigillography, and glyptics, but also epigraphy, archeology, ancient and medieval history, and the history of collections and collectors).

Warning

Objects are only released by appointment.

A Center for the Study and Publication of Monetary Finds (Centre d’étude et de publication des trouvailles monétaires) compiles inventories of findings entrusted to the department for analysis, recording and publication in the Trésors Monétaires series published by BnF.

The department is the registered office of the French Numismatics Society (Société française de numismatique).

The Museum of Coins, Medals and Antiques (Musée des Monnaies, médailles et antiques) is open to the public and displays a selection of items held by the department.
For more info

The Great Cameo of France (or Great Cameo of the Sainte-Chapelle) : glorification of Germanicus. Rome, Ca 23 B.C. | BnF Museum of coins, medals and antiques
Richelieu - Department of coins, medal and antiques
permanent exhibition

History of the department

The Coins, Medals and Antiques Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, or the “Cabinet des Médailles”, was formed from the collection of the kings of France. From the Middle Ages onwards, Philippe Auguste, Jean le Bon, and Charles V brought together all kinds of precious and rare ancient objects: manuscripts, silverwork, engraved stones, and, undoubtedly, antique coins, referred to at that time as “medals”. From Henri IV onwards, what had been an amateur’s private collection became a “national” collection, if not a public one. As such, the Cabinet du roi can claim to be France’s oldest museum.

Its expansion truly began under Louis XIV. Inheriting, among other things, the “Cabinet de curiosités” from his uncle, Gaston d’Orléans, the Sun King tirelessly expanded the Cabinet by adding acquisitions made by his foreign envoys and complete collections. He even had it moved from the Library in Rue Vivienne, where it had been housed since 1667, to Versailles, so that he could spend time there every day.

The Cabinet moved back to Paris in the 18th century. Jules-Robert de Cotte created a room for it, which is still known as the Salon Louis XV. “Antique dealers” from all over Europe flocked to it; the burgeoning science of archeology found in it a rich source of documentation, and one of its pioneers, the Count of Caylus, donated all his antiques.

The Revolution provided the Cabinet with exceptional objets d’art, levied as taxes and thus saved from destruction, from the treasure-houses of Saint-Denis, the Sainte-Chapelle, and other religious institutions.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Cabinet of the “imperial” and later the “national” Library received further large donations. The most famous example is the collection of coins and antiques brought together by the Duke of Luynes and added to the Library in 1862.
The Coins, Medals and Antiques Department has been based at its current premises since 1917.

For more info

History of the BnF

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Contact

Frédérique Duyrat
Director
Phone : 01.53.79.83.40
Fax : 01.53.79.89.47
Email : monnaies-medailles-antiques @bnf.fr

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