Spanish version

National Library


Royal Public Library

During the reign of Felipe V it was established that book printers had to deposit one copy ofNational Library each work published in Spain at the " Royal Public Library ", founded in 1711 (this was going to be the law of copyright since 1857). The Library was located at a passage that linked the old Royal Palace (Real Alcazar) with the Incarnation Convent.

The king wanted to promote studying among his people. He also wanted to gather all book collections belonging to those noblemen which had emigrated and favoured Carlos of Austria in the war. The first titles belonged to the king and his mother.

National Library

From 1836 on the library was run by the Department of State instead of the Royal Household. This is when it received its new name: National Library.

It was opened to the public in 1896 in its current location. The most valuable books were obtained in the XIXth century, some were bought, donated or confiscated ( Ecclesiastical Confiscations). It also received many books during the Civil War.
From the very beginning it had a reading room for 320 people.

In 1931 this reading room was reorganized and many reference books added. They also opened a new general room for students and working class readers. Since 1986 the National Library integrates other institutions like the National Newspaper and Periodical Library or the Hispanic Institute, becoming the National Center for the Spanish Cultural Memory.

In 1990 the Library became an independent organization depending from the Ministry of Culture.

New activities

In 2009 the Library started with new activities like taking part in projects or programs of National Librarylibrary cooperation at national and international level. That same year it also presented the Hispanic Digital Library which counts on the participation of all Spanish libraries.
The Library also offers exhibitions, conferences, etc.

With the exhibitions the Library wants to promote its collections. This is why they usually commemorate historic events or first editions of excepctional works of the Spanish literature. The Library also wants to promote the librarian´s work and its own function as depositary of the Spanish cultural memory. It also wants to be a center of permanent cultural activity.
The activities at the National Library are free and open to everybody.

The Library has around 30.000 manuscripts, 3.000 incunabula, magazines, engravings, drawings, posters, photographies, scores and over 6 million modern monographs.


The building is shared with the National Archaelogical Museum, which is on the back of National Librarythe National Library. It was built in the XIX century and designed by the architect Francisco Jareño (1818-1892). Another building designed by him is the Cervantes Institute. The building was started in 1866 under the reign of Queen Isabel II and was not finished until 1892 because of financial problems. The last architect in charge was Antonio Ruiz de Salces .

Lobby and staircase

It is the entrance area on the ground floor which gives access to the different zones of the Library. The staircase is neoclassic style.

Sculpture of Francisco de Asís by Francisco Pérez del Valle (around 1850) and of Isabel II by Ponciano Ponzano in 1855.

Sculpture of Menéndez y Pelayoby Coullat Valera.

Italian Room

General information room where we can see several portraits of winner of the Cervantes prize.

General Reading Room

Here you can look up monographies and leaflets published in Spain, i.e. almost everything National Librarypublished in the country but those valuable works or rare manuscripts or incunabula, etc.


The main façade has six statues and eleven medallions of famous Spanish authors.
The building is made in neoclassic style.


It was made by Agustín Querol . In the center is a figure symbolizing Peace. On the left, War breaking a sword, next to this character Arts and Science:
Eloquence, Poetry, Music, Painting, Sculpture, Philology, Industry, Commerce and Agriculture.

On the other side of Peace there are: Philosophy, Jurisprudence, History, Astronomy, Etnography, Geography, Chemistry, Medicine and Mathematics.

Above the pediment there are three sculptures; on the right Genius, on the left Study. In the center there is an image of Spain with a lion simbolyzing Castilla.
The pediment represents the victory of Arts, Literature and Science that work in order to support Peace.

If you want to see more photos, click here.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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