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Why you might want to make a visit to Spain’s National Library

The Library was founded by King Philip V in 1712 as the Palace Public Library (Biblioteca Pública de Palacio). Per  the Royal Letters Patent, Philip V made it  mandatory for printers to submit a copy of every book printed in Spain to the library. In 1836, the library ceased to be Crown property; ownership was transferred to the Ministry of Governance (Ministerio de la Gobernación). Thereupon it was, and still is, called the Biblioteca Nacional (National Library).

In the 19th century, confiscations, purchases and donations enabled the Biblioteca Nacional to acquire the majority of the antique and valuable books that it currently holds. During the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) close to half a million volumes were collected by the Confiscation Committee (Junta de Incautación) and stored in the Biblioteca Nacional to safeguard works of art and books kept until then in religious establishments, palaces and private houses.

The National Library of Spain, built between 1866 and 1892. To the left, the Columbus monument, inaugurated in 1892. Photo: Luis Garcia, CC BY-SA2.5

From 16 March 1896 to the present, the Biblioteca Nacional is housed in the same building, where it now is, in Madrid. However, despite the fact that major alterations to the building were carried out in 1955 to triple the capacity of the library’s repositories, and those started in 1986 and completed in 2000, not to mention the complete remodelling of the Library, the Library’s constantly expanding collections made it imperative that an additional new building  be constructed in Alcala de Henares, a beautiful medieval town northeast of Madrid.

In 1986, Spain’s main bibliographic institutions — the National Newspaper Library (Hemeroteca Nacional), the Spanish Bibliographic Institute (Instituto Bibliográfico Hispánico) and the Center for Documentary and Bibliographic Treasures (Centro del Tesoro Documental y Bibliográfico) — were incorporated into the Biblioteca Nacional. As a consequence,  the Library was established as the State Repository of Spain’s Cultural Memory (Centro Estatal Depositario de la Memoria Cultural Española), making all of Spain’s bibliographic output on any media available to the Spanish Library System and national and international researchers and cultural and educational institutions.

In 1990 the preeminent Biblioteca Nacional became an Autonomous Entity attached to the Ministry of Culture.

Come early! Only a limited number of free ticckets are  available, which will be distributed starting at 8:45 AM on the same day.

29 September 2019, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Biblioteca Nacional de España
Paseo de Recoletos, 20
28071 Madrid