The Oval Room
The Oval Room offering
As a reading room and place for visits and mediation, the room contains over 20,000 books for perusal and 160 study seats.
This documentary offering serves as an introduction to the major areas of art history covered by the Richelieu site’s collection departments: Performing Arts, Department of Maps & Plans, Prints & Photography, Manuscripts, Coins, Medals and Antiques, and Music. Mainstream arts and heritage press is also available. A large collection of comics (9,000 volumes) is also available. Innovative and fun digital systems allow you to take full advantage of the resources available in this extraordinary room.
The Oval Room has internet access via the “BNF” Wi-Fi network (after signing the “BnF Computer Use Policy”).
Comics in the Oval Room
The Oval Room offers the public a substantial collection – a “dream library” – of comics. As such, it is THE place to come to read comics in Paris, with 9,000 albums freely available.
The selection covers comics from their origins in the 1830s, with the works of Rodolphe Töpffer, to the most recent publications, such as the latest Asterix.
All countries are represented, even if comics from France and Belgium – with both the essentials and new issues – and Europe are in the majority. There are Asian comics – notably manga – American comics (USA and South America), as well as comics from Africa, Oceania, and the Middle East, among others. Reference works on comics are also available (biographies of great authors and illustrators, history of comics and the different trends of the genre, practical works relating to creation techniques).
Other collections available
The Oval Room now offers visitors of all ages varied documentation. Documentation includes:
- Reference books: dictionaries, encyclopaedias, French history books, and genealogy books
- Over 2,000 works of French literature
- A range of documents on “specialist” collections of the BnF departments on the Richelieu site. Some 6,000 printed books have been selected by librarians to understand the wealth and diversity of the treasures preserved on this site, whether ancient Greek vases, the first globes, or stage costumes. These topics are available on different media: printed and digital books, magazines, sound, video, and multimedia portals.
Digital mediation offering in the Oval Room
Digital mediation allows you to discover the Bibliothèque, its history, its architecture, and its missions as well as its extensive and diverse collections.
Nine systems, accessible to all audiences, are installed on large screens, all around the room.
They encourage visitors to explore the Bibliothèque: What is it for? What can you find in it? Who works there? Where do the 22 million documents it preserves come from? How are they restored and preserved?
You can also have fun with the articles and documents kept by the Bibliothèque: do digital fittings for stage costumes using augmented reality or play a video game with others to explore the wealth of the collections.
The Oval Room’s digital mediation was supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
To find out more about the Oval Room and its collections, before, during and after your visit, visit our dedicated website! The librarians will guide you through themed selections and reading favourites.
Oval Room history
The Oval Room’s construction by Jean-Louis Pascal started in 1897. Completed, in 1932, by Alfred Recoura, it was inaugurated, in December 1936, by the French President Albert Lebrun. Between 1999 and 2016, it hosted both the Richelieu site’s bibliography room for the BnF and the INHA library’s reading room. It closed for works in September 2016 and finally reopened in 2022.
The Oval Room’s restoration was funded by over 2,700 donors.
Tuesday (late-night opening):
10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Wednesday to Sunday:
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed on Mondays, bank holidays, Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday
The Oval Room is open on 8 may, on Ascension Thursday as well as on 1 and 11 November.