Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid

Category: LocationsMadrid

If you are traveling to Madrid, Spain, either for business or pleasure, one of the sites you should really try to visit during your stay is the Biblioteca Nacional de España. The Biblioteca Nacional de España, or National Library of Spain, is Madrid’s primary public library and the largest of its kind in Spain. To help you better understand the significance of this true Madrid treasure, below we have provided a brief overview of the library, including some interesting facts regarding its history and the role it plays today.

Biblioteca Nacional de España: Then and Now

The Biblioteca Nacional de España, which is located in Madrid’s downtown sector on the Paseo de Recoletos, is one of the most important institutions in the city. It was established in the year 1712 by King Philip V under its original name, Biblioteca Publica de Palacio, or the Palace Public Library. To assure Madrileños had access to books the King granted what was known as the Royal Letters Patent, which made it compulsory for all printers in Spain to submit at least one copy of every book they printed. For over a hundred years, the library and its collection continued to expand under the ownership of the Spanish Monarchy, but in 1836, that ownership was revoked and was transferred to the Ministry of Governance, and the library was renamed the Biblioteca Nacional de España.

Throughout the 19th century the Biblioteca Nacional de España continued to expand through donations, purchases and confiscations, all of which enabled the library to amass a huge collection of antique and valuable books—books it continues to hold to this day. Under the new tenure, the library finally opened to the public in the spring of 1896 and included a massive Reading Room in which over 300 readers could comfortably sit and enjoy their favorite books and periodicals. Further expansion came in 1931, when the current Reading Room was transformed into what would now be called a reference room, and a new General Reading Room was built to accommodate students, workers and general readers.

The Confiscation Committee created by the Biblioteca Nacional de España during the Spanish Civil War of the mid to late 1830s collected over a half a million volumes. This was done to safeguard books and works of arts that were being held by private parties, palaces and religious organizations. The library continued to swell throughout the 20th century, including many construction projects aimed to increase the library’s capacity. In 1955, for example, the capacity of the library’s repositories was tripled, and between the years 1986 and 2000, the original building on Paseo de Recoletos was remodeled and a new building was erected in Alcala de Henares.

Today the Biblioteca Nacional de España holds the distinction of being the head of the Spanish Library System and one of the most important libraries in all of Europe. Visitors to the facility will marvel at the sheer size of its collection and are free to explore the library at their leisure during business hours. The library is currently home to nearly 27 million items in total, including roughly 16 million books, 143,000 newspapers and serials, 4 million graphic materials, 1 million music scores and sound recordings, and over a half million electronic documents and microforms. It prides itself on being a major point of reference, research and enjoyment for Spanish students and everyday citizens, and gladly accepts the responsibility of identifying, preserving and disseminating information regarding Spain’s heritage and the country’s long and distinguished history.