Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France) – Paris, France - Atlas Obscura

Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France)

This massive library holds what was once the largest book collection in the world. 


The massive Bibliothèque nationale de France is one of the grandest and most storied collections of printed material in the world. It’s also home to two marvels of French Renaissance cartography.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France can trace its origin all the way back to 1368 when it was founded by Charles V. Despite being moved multiple times and having portions of the collection dispersed, it remained the largest library in the world until the late 1800’s, when other collections surpassed its numbers.

The facilities have been rebuilt and expanded in modern times and renovated throughout, leaving it as still one of the largest libraries in the world with over ten million titles. It houses books on the arts, law, economics, languages and literature, science and technology, humanities, philosophy and more. The library also houses numerous collections from antiquity including over 5,000 Greek manuscripts. The library also has an extensive collection of antique coins, including Greek, Roman, and French. 

Visitors attend the library for a bit of historical tourism as well as to check out the books. Among most popular attractions on display are Louis XIV’s globes. They lived at Versailles until the French Revolution, after which they moved from place to place before finally settling permanently at the Bibliothèque nationale.

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