Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal
The Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal (Library of the Arsenal) in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 is one of the branches of the Bibliothèque nationale de France
Bibliothèque nationale de France
The is the National Library of France, located in Paris. It is intended to be the repository of all that is published in France. The current president of the library is Bruno Racine.-History:...



The collections of the library originated with the private library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 of Marc-René, 3rd marquis d'Argenson
Marc-René de Voyer de Paulmy d'Argenson (1722-1787)
Marc Antoine René de Voyer, marquis de Paulmy and 3rd marquis d'Argenson , was the only son of René-Louis de Voyer de Paulmy, marquis d' Argenson...

 (1722–1787), installed in 1757 in the residence of the Grand Master of the Artillery, at the heart of the ancient Arsenal of Paris. The Arsenal itself was founded by King François I
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

 in the 16th century, later rebuilt by Sully
Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully
Maximilien de Béthune, first Duke of Sully was the doughty soldier, French minister, staunch Huguenot and faithful right-hand man who assisted Henry IV of France in the rule of France.-Early years:...

, and expanded by the architect Germain Boffrand
Germain Boffrand
Germain Boffrand was one of the most gifted French architects of his generation. A pupil of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Germain Boffrand was one of the main creators of the precursor to Rococo called the style Régence, and in his interiors, of the Rococo itself...

 in the 18th century. Paulmy had assembled a magnificent collection, particularly rich in medieval manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s and prints
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints with an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable...

. In 1786 he also acquired the collection of the duc de la Vallière
Louis César de La Baume Le Blanc
Louis César de La Baume Le Blanc, duc de Vaujours, duc de La Vallière was a French nobleman, bibliophile and military man...

, but then sold the entire library to the comte d'Artois
Charles X of France
Charles X was known for most of his life as the Comte d'Artois before he reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him...


The library was sequestered
Sequestration (law)
Sequestration is the act of removing, separating, or seizing anything from the possession of its owner under process of law for the benefit of creditors or the state.-Etymology:...

 by the state during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, and was greatly expanded by many valuable items seized from the abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

s of Paris and also by the archive
An archive is a collection of historical records, or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of an organization...

s of the Bastille
The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. The Bastille was built in response to the English threat to the city of...

. On 28 April 1797 it was declared a public library
Public library
A public library is a library that is accessible by the public and is generally funded from public sources and operated by civil servants. There are five fundamental characteristics shared by public libraries...


In 1824, the writer Charles Nodier
Charles Nodier
Jean Charles Emmanuel Nodier , was a French author who introduced a younger generation of Romanticists to the conte fantastique, gothic literature, vampire tales, and the importance of dreams as part of literary creation, and whose career as a librarian is often underestimated by literary...

 became librarian
A librarian is an information professional trained in library and information science, which is the organization and management of information services or materials for those with information needs...

 and held in the Arsenal some the most reputable literary salon
Salon (gathering)
A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to...

s of the day. In the 19th century the collections became increasingly focused towards literature, especially drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

. Between 1880 and 1914 the library acquired a copy of every periodical published in Paris. In 1934 it became a department of the Bibliothèque nationale.

The library today

The library today holds approximately one million volumes (including 150,000 pre-1880 volumes), just over 12,000 manuscripts, 100,000 prints, and 3,000 charts and plans. Its collecting policy concentrates on French literature
French literature
French literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the French language, particularly by citizens of France; it may also refer to literature written by people living in France who speak traditional languages of France other than French. Literature written in French language, by citizens...

 from the 16th century to the 19th century, publications connected with the archives and manuscript collections (fonds
Fonds is an archival term used to describe an aggregation of documents that originate from the same source. More specifically, a fonds distinguishes itself from a collection through its organic nature, as archival documents that have been naturally accumulated by an individual, company,...

) already held, bibliophilia
Bibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of books. Accordingly a bibliophile is an individual who loves books. A bookworm is someone who loves books for their content, or who otherwise loves reading. The -ia-suffixed form "bibliophilia" is sometimes considered to be an incorrect usage; the older...

, the history of the book and bookbinding
Bookbinding is the process of physically assembling a book from a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material. It usually involves attaching covers to the resulting text-block.-Origins of the book:...

, and the history of the Arsenal itself and its occupants.

Major collections

  • Archives of the Bastille: The archives of the Bastille date from 1660 onwards. They comprise prisoner dossiers (including those of the marquis de Sade
    Marquis de Sade
    Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher, and writer famous for his libertine sexuality and lifestyle...

     and other famous prisoners), the archives of the Lieutenancy of Police
    The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

     of Paris, the Chambre de l'Arsenal and the Chambre du Châtelet, private papers of the officers of the Bastille, and a portion of the papers of the Royal Family.
  • Fonds Prosper Enfantin: Paul-Mathieu Laurent, known as Laurent de l'Ardèche, was a disciple of the Saint-Simonist
    Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon
    Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, often referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon was a French early socialist theorist whose thought influenced the foundations of various 19th century philosophies; perhaps most notably Marxism, positivism and the discipline of sociology...

     Prosper Enfantin and librarian of the Arsenal. In 1865, he acquired the papers of Enfantin, which are a rich source for the history of Saint-Simonism.
  • Fonds Lambert: In 1969, Pierre Lambert, a bookseller who had devoted his life to collecting items connected with the writer Joris-Karl Huysmans
    Joris-Karl Huysmans
    Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans was a French novelist who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans . He is most famous for the novel À rebours...

    , bequeathed his collection to the library. It includes manuscripts, letters, works that belonged to Huysmans, and original editions of his works.
  • Louis-Sébastien Mercier Papers: In 1967, the library acquired the papers of Louis-Sebastien Mercier
    Louis-Sébastien Mercier
    Louis-Sébastien Mercier was a French dramatist and writer.-Early life and education:He was born in Paris to a humble family: his father was a skilled artisan who polished swords and metal arms. Mercier nevertheless received a decent education.-Literary career:Mercier began his literary career by...

     (1740–1814), who had had a great influence on the evolution of the theatre and in particular on realistic drama, and who is particularly known for his descriptions of Paris. The collection contains biographical documents and correspondence, articles, notes, the manuscripts of Nouveau Paris and his plays and works of poetry and philosophy.
  • Fonds Lacroix: Paul Lacroix
    Paul Lacroix
    Paul Lacroix , French author and journalist, was born in Paris, the son of a novelist.He is best known under his pseudonym of P.L. Jacob, bibliophile, or Bibliophile Jacob, suggested by the constant interest he took in public libraries and books generally. Lacroix was an extremely prolific and...

    , known as Bibliophile Jacob, worked at the Arsenal for several years. After his death in 1884 the library acquired most of his personal papers, including his collection of autograph
    An autograph is a document transcribed entirely in the handwriting of its author, as opposed to a typeset document or one written by an amanuensis or a copyist; the meaning overlaps with that of the word holograph.Autograph also refers to a person's artistic signature...

    s, contained in letters from writers, musicians and philosophers, both contemporary with Lacroix and older.
  • Fonds Péladan: In 1936, the Arsenal acquired all the papers of Joséphin Péladan
    Joséphin Péladan
    Joséphin Péladan was a French novelist and Martinist. His father was a journalist who had written on prophecies, and professed a philosophic-occult Catholicism.-Biography:...

     (1858–1918), a spiritualist writer who was fascinated by the occult
    The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

     and in 1891 founded his own church.
  • José-Maria de Heredia Collection: The daughters of the poet José María de Heredia
    José María de Heredia
    José-Maria de Heredia was a Cuban-born French poet. He was the fifteenth member elected for seat 4 of the Académie française during 1894.-Early years:...

    , who was librarian of the Arsenal from 1901 until his death in 1905, gave the library a collection of portraits, manuscripts, works and letters concerning their father and themselves. One of them, Marie de Régnier (whose pen name
    Pen name
    A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...

     was Gerard d'Houville), bequeathed her library to the Arsenal. The library is also very rich in items connected with the writer Pierre Louÿs
    Pierre Louÿs
    Pierre Louÿs was a French poet and writer, most renowned for lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings. He is known as a writer who "expressed pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection."-Life:...

    , Heredia's son-in-law.
  • Fonds Georges Douay: Georges Douay, Parisian man-about-town, theatre fan, and composer of songs and operetta
    Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...

    s, assembled a collection (mainly printed) on French theatre from the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century, which he bequeathed to the Arsenal in 1919.
  • Archives Parlementaires: The official, printed record of the French National Assembly from the 1789 Revolution forward.
  • Prints: The print collection comprises portraits, many caricature
    A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.Caricatures can be...

    s of the Revolution and the Restoration, a topographic
    Topography is the study of Earth's surface shape and features or those ofplanets, moons, and asteroids...

     series of plans and views of cities, and major series of the 18th century Italian, German and English schools bought by Paulmy during his travels throughout Europe.
  • Charts and Plans: Paulmy acquired a magnificent series of military reconnaissance
    Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

     plans that had been made for his uncle, the comte d'Argenson, who was Minister of War.
  • Music: The Arsenal's collection of manuscript and printed music almost exclusively comes from the 18th century, except for a few medieval manuscripts. Most of the music collection was assembled by Paulmy.

The library is also rich in occult documents. These include the original manuscripts of The Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin and the Book of the Penitence of Adam
Book of the Penitence of Adam
The Book of the Penitence of Adam is a manuscript dealing with Kabbalistic traditions, all of which are embodied in the allegory it contains....


Further reading

External links

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