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A: Paris, Île-de-France, France

Origins of the French Public Library System


As with many other aspects of French society, the French Revolution disrupted the traditional organization and preservation of libraries in France through the confiscation of many libraries from the closure of religious institutions, including monasteries and convents, and also the confiscation of libraries of members of the ancien regime who fled the country or were guillotined. To store the millions of confiscated volumes the Convention nationale set up a vast network of warehouses and depots, and created municipal libraries in every department. Through a decree of 1794, the government transformed the newly created municipal libraries into public libraries--origins of the French public library system. Most of the French libraries, old and new, had difficulties coping with the huge influx books and manuscripts for which they suddenly became responsible. Other volumes seized during the revolution found their way into the book trade, and became dealers' stock for the first half of the nineteenth century.

Décret de la Convention Nationale, du 8.e jour de Pluviôse, an second de la République Française … relatif à l’établissement de bibliothèques publiques dans les districts. [Colophon:] A Paris, de l’Imprimerie Nationale Exécutive du Louvre. An II.e de la République [1794].  

John F. Camp, "Libraries and the Organization of Universities in France, 1789– 1881" The Library Quarterly, 51, no. 2 (1981), 170–191.

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