Bibliothèque nationale (bēblēōtĕk´ näsyônäl´), national library of France, in Paris, a government archive, and one of the foremost libraries of the world. It originated with the collections of writings made by early French kings, including Charlemagne. The collection of Charles V, placed in the tower of the old Louvre in the 14th cent., and a library belonging to the house of Orléans at Blois were brought together at Fontainebleu in the 16th cent. under Francis I. The collection was later transferred to Paris by Charles IX, and was expanded greatly under the supervision of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (17th cent.). Since 1537 the library has been the legal depository for all books published in France. Its collection now includes more than 13 million books, more than half a million periodicals, and significant collections of manuscripts, posters, maps and plans, music and sound recordings, medals and coins, and photographs and videos. The library was housed in a building erected (1854–75) in the Rue de Richelieu under the direction of Henri Labrouste; it was remodeled (1932–39), and a 20th-century addition was built. A controversial new library complex in SE Paris, commissioned by President François Mitterrand and designed by Dominique Perrault, opened in 1998. The old building now houses such state collections as manuscripts, maps, and music. There are library annexes at Versailles, Provins, Sable, and Avignon.
See M.-H. Tesnière and P. Gifford. ed., Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (1996).