History of the Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris Library

This is the historical library of Paris dedicated to the history of the city of Paris and the Ile de France region, which has a rich history from humble beginnings and dramatic events, through to its current situation in the Hotel Lamoignon with an extremely impressive collection.

The First Library in Paris

Antoine Moriau was an attorney and prosecutor for the city of Paris from 1722 through to 1755, however, he was also an avid collector of books and other documents that all related to the city that he loved so dearly.
Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris history
He decided to rent the Hotel Lamoignon and install his vast collection there, which amounted to thousands of books, manuscripts, maps and other documents, and just before he died, he bequeathed his entire collection to the City of Paris with a condition that these were to be made into a public library.

Eventually, the City of Paris opened up its first public library on 13th April 1763, with its head librarian being Pierre Nicolas Bonamy, who had dedicated his life to literature and studies, and of course the thousands of documents and books from Antoine Moriau were among these.

However, in the March of 1795 the library was put at the disposal of the National Institute of Science and Art by decree, and this meant that unfortunately it deprived the city of Paris a public library.

It was in 1804 during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte I, that the Prefect of the Seine, Nicolas Frochot, decided that the City of Paris needed the historical library and it was given to the Central School of Saint Anthony.
Then it was transferred to building of Saint-Jean-en-Greve, which was a church in Paris, although this is now destroyed, and another few years later it was transferred again to a building at Quai d’Austerlitz before being installed within the Hotel de Ville, which is the Town Hall.

Jules Cousin, who had been an avid collector of books and prints relating to the history of Paris was appointed librarian at the Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal and then he was asked to become the Chief Librarian for the library at the Hotel de Ville.

However, during the Paris Commune, on the 24th May 1871, the town hall was set alight and the library collections were completely destroyed, along with the Hotel de Ville itself, which was completely rebuilt.

New Start of the Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris Library

After this tragic event, Jules Cousin decided to donate his impressive personal collection of approximately 6,000 books and 10,000 prints to the city in order to open a new library on the history of Paris.
Historicak books at Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris
Architecture of Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris
Obviously, he was put in charge of the library when it was opened in 1872 in the Hotel Carnavalet, which was designed to house the Musee Carnavalet, displaying historical collections of Paris.

Then in 1874 he became one of the co-founders of the Society for the History of Paris and in 1876 wrote a monumental book entitled Paris through the Ages.  Jules Cousin then sought for a merger of the museum pieces and the library and he became the curator for both.  Then he was also appointed chairman of the Society for the History of Paris in 1882.

A few years later, Jules Cousin retired and Lucien Faucou was appointed custodian, however, after his death Jules Cousin returned to his post right up until 1893 when Paul Le Vayer took over, and by this time the library along had been enriched dramatically and now had approximately 100,000 different books.

In 1898 it was decided that the two institutions should be separated again and the Musee Carnavalet was still to hold the artefacts and the library was to be moved to a different location. It went into a mansion house, which became known as the Hotel Peletier de Saint-Fargeau.

Jules Cousin died in Paris in 1899 at a building close to the Place des Vosges, but his legacy still lives on today, with a street named after him, and then in 1910 a company called the Jules Cousin Company was founded, plus even today the Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris has a fund named after him.

But the story does not finish there, as unfortunately during the periods of both World War I and World War II, the Library of the History of Paris became rather disorganised, however it did survive and it started to gradually recover after the 2nd World War under the leadership of Count Jean de l'Monneraye.

The collections were reorganised and started to be continually enriched and eventually the entire library was transferred to the Hotel Lamoignon in the late 1960s after the building had been restored, which is where this fabulous library museum in Paris is still located today.